Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is in Moscow on a four-day visit seeking to secure a $1 billion deal with Russia to develop a natural gas field off the Gaza Strip.
The move would expand what appears to be a determined Russian push into the energy-rich Eastern Mediterranean, Russian media reports indicated.
Russia signed a 25-year agreement with Syria's embattled regime Dec. 25 that gives Russia's state-controlled Soyuzneftegaz exclusive exploration, development and production rights over 850 square miles of Syrian waters, Moscow's first real foothold in the booming Levant Basin.
The U.S. Geological Survey reported in 2010 that the basin, which covers Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Cyprus and the Gaza Strip, contains at least 123 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas and 1.7 billion barrels of oil.
The Syrian deal gives Russian President Vladimir Putin a way into a region whose resources have barely been tapped and is becoming a strategic energy source that will transform regional economies and open up new supplies of natural gas to Europe.
Moscow also is maneuvering to get a stake in the gas bonanza in Israel.
The Jewish state began production at its Tamar field off Haifa, with reserves of 8 trillion cubic feet, March 30 and the much bigger Leviathan field is scheduled to go onstream in 2017.