ROME: Algeria will replace Russia this year as the main supplier of gas to Italy after agreements were signed in Algiers on Monday by Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.

“Algeria is a very important partner for Italy in the fields of energy and industrial production along with the fight against organized crime, in the pursuit of peace and stability in the Mediterranean,” Draghi said.

The 15 agreements signed include cooperation on renewable energy, construction of infrastructure such as roads and highways, pharmaceuticals, promoting investment and social development projects, and tackling corruption and Islamic radicalization in prisons.

An Italian diplomatic source told Arab News that the agreements will “open a new season” in the relationship with Algeria.

The source stressed that it is “not only a matter of gas supply, which is vital for Italy in this particular phase due to the conflict in Ukraine, but a giant step in establishing a new relationship with a country that has always been close to us.”

A major agreement was reached during Draghi’s last visit to Algeria in April between Algerian energy giant Sonatrach and Italian company ENI to increase gas exports.

The Trans-Mediterranean pipeline, which runs through Tunisia and under the Mediterranean Sea to Sicily, is a key conduit in this strategy.

A source in Draghi’s office told Arab News that immigration was one of the key points in his talks with Tebboune.

The number of migrants reaching Italy’s shores from Algeria dropped 46 percent so far this year compared to the same period in 2021, according to the Italian government.

“This has only been possible thanks to deep cooperation between our states and strong action from the Italian side to help Algerian authorities,” said the source in Draghi’s office.

At a joint news conference with Tebboune attended by Arab News, Draghi said the increase in gas supplies from Algeria “will be even more conspicuous in the coming years.”

Tebboune hailed “a new stage in relations between our countries,” adding: “We want to strengthen our … friendship and cooperation. We talked about international issues as well as our bilateral political and economic relationship.”

Draghi said: “Italy and Algeria continue to work together for peace in the Mediterranean, sharing their views on the political crisis in Libya and the difficult times Tunisia is facing.

“I’m sure we’ll be able to make a decisive contribution to the stability of those countries, respecting their sovereignty.

“We want to continue to work together for the prosperity of our businesses and our citizens, for the future of the Mediterranean.”