Political wrangling mars Europe gas summit

25th April 2009, Comments 0 comments

The summit is aimed at finding ways to secure natural gas supplies for Europe after the recent payment dispute between Russia and Ukraine that left much of Europe out in the cold.

Sofia -- Political squabbles marred a European gas summit on Friday that has already been badly undermined by the absence of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The summit is aimed at finding ways to secure natural gas supplies for Europe after a payment dispute between Russia and Ukraine cut off deliveries to much of Europe in the middle of a particularly cold winter in January.

Gas consumers, transit countries and suppliers discussed how to inject fresh momentum into plans to diversify Europe's gas sources and supply routes.

But Putin's last-minute decision to skip the forum effectively stalled any discussion on the Moscow-backed South Stream pipeline to channel Russian gas to Europe via the Black Sea.

And Erdogan's absence threw a shadow over the EU's flagship Nabucco pipeline project, aimed at bringing Caspian Sea gas to Europe via Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary while bypassing Russia.

Officials at the summit complained the projects being held up by bitter political squabbling and lack of agreement over funding and gas supplies.

And they called on the main players -- and Europe in particular -- to provide the necessary impulses for the projects to proceed quickly.

"It is time for the poker game to end and for decisions to be made," said a top official from one of Nabucco's six shareholders, German power giant RWE.

Turkey was recently accused of holding the European Union to ransom by using the pipeline to boost its bid for EU membership and attempting to become a gas supplier to Europe by buying gas from Azerbaijan and re-selling it to the EU.

Moscow has also turned up its efforts to woo Azerbaijan with promises of major gas purchases.

Both Nabucco and South Stream will depend on gas from the Middle East and the Caspian region.

Moscow has long bought gas from the region and re-sold it, but none of the supplier countries from the former Soviet Union have so far exported gas directly to Europe.

Managing director of the Nabucco Pipeline Company, Reinhard Mitschek, said he was hopeful that, despite Erdogan's absence, talks with Turkey would lead to the signing of an intergovernmental agreement for Nabucco by June.

"The progress on the intergovernmental agreement is promising and we expect the finalisation of the wording and hopefully also the signing by June," he told AFP on the sidelines of the talks.

Both Nabucco and South Stream are planned to come on line by 2014.


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