Group of Seven nations represented by their energy ministers have agreed to wean Europe off its dependency on Russian gas. Meeting in Rome, the G7 also said it would help Ukraine cope with Russian threats to cut supply.
The G7 industrialized powers agreed on Tuesday to help Ukraine to "strengthen its energy security" and warned Russia that "energy should not be used as a means of political coercion."
Russia recently said that it could restrict gas supplies to Ukraine if Kyiv failed to make a pre-payment in May.
The Paris-based International Energy Agency, which took part in Tuesday's consultations in Rome, was asked to submit an assessment within six months.
Ministers listed priorities, including improved energy efficiencies, expanded use of so-called renewables and nuclear energy, Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and alternative gas pipelines via the Caspian Sea region.
Preparation for G7 summit
Tuesday's meeting in Rome was in preparation for a G7 summit in June which was moved to Brussels as part of diplomatic and economic sanctions against Moscow.
Russia was expelled as a member of what was formerly the G8 when it annexed Crimea in March.
In a joint statement, G7 ministers praised the European Commission over its efforts to identify possible routes for reverse gas flows to Ukraine and draft "emergency plans for winter 2014" in case Russia halts supplies.
The ministers also stressed the need for Europe to diversify its energy supplies, including a better mix between fossil fuels and renewable sources of energy, such as wind and solar.
Could take years
Russia currently provides about a quarter of all EU gas imports while pipelines through Ukraine (pictured) carry about half of those deliveries each year.
France's Energy Minister Segolene Royal said the G7 would use the crisis over Ukraine to "accelerate access to new technologies for countries that are excessively dependent."
Italy's economic development minister Federica Guidi called for the expansion of LNG plants in Italy as well as "low-carbon technologies."
Italy is reportedly considering LPG deliveries from Canada.
Britain's energy secretary Ed Davey said participants were united on the need to "disarm the Russian energy weapon." Reducing Western Europe's dependence could, however, take years, he acknowledged.
"That cannot happen overnight," Davey said.
Russia and Ukraine first argued over gas supplies in 2006.
ipj/mz (dpa, AP, AFP)
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