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EU energy ministers urge Russia, Ukraine to settle gas conflict
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10:05, January 13, 2009

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European Union energy ministers urged on Monday that Russia and Ukraine settle their gas conflict and resume supplies to Europe.

"Russia has no reason not to restore gas supplies immediately," Czech Energy Minister Martin Riman said on his arrival in Brussels to preside over an extraordinary meeting of the energy ministers as his country is holding the current EU presidency.

"I believe the council (of energy ministers) will call upon Russia to promptly turn on the gas taps," he told reporters.

He said that Ukraine had re-signed a gas transit monitoring agreement at Kiev airport with the Czech ambassador, dropping its declaration to the deal which was mediated by the EU.

Ukraine's attachment of the declaration drew objection from Russia on Sunday, causing uncertainty to the deal and postponing gas resumption in Europe.

Riman said conditions for Russia to restart gas supplies have been met as the deal has been re-signed and monitors have reached all the pumping stations in Ukraine.

Russian energy company Gazprom said it was ready to restart gas supplies to the EU "as soon as possible" once Ukraine fulfilled conditions on gas transit.

EU officials will hold talks with representatives of the Russian and Ukrainian gas industries on the sidelines of the emergency meeting.

The energy ministers will discuss ways to help member countries hit hard by the crisis, and to achieve energy security in the long term.

Disputes over gas pricing and fees between Russia and Ukraine led to a total shutdown of gas supplies to Europe via Ukraine on Wednesday. Russia also charged that Ukraine had siphoned off gas to Europe.

The shutdown has affected 18 EU countries. Russia supplies about one-quarter of the EU's natural gas, with around 80 percent of it via Ukraine.

Factories and schools have been forced to close, and thousands of people left without gas for heating in freezing weather.

The meeting will also cover the issue of diversifying Europe's energy supplies, including building new pipelines and finding new suppliers, so as to become less dependent on Russia.


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