BRUSSELS, March 19 (UPI) -- Europe must maintain a close working relationship with Moscow to ensure energy security, though diversification is a must, ministers said in Brussels.
European Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger said ahead of an April meeting with officials in Azerbaijan that Moscow was a key player in European energy security, the Azeri news agency News.Az reports.
Oettinger said Russia is an "important neighbor and partner" for the European community. The European Union, he said, should work with Russia to settle issues related to natural gas transit networks in Ukraine.
European consumers were left without gas in January 2009 when Russian gas giant Gazprom cut gas supplies to Ukraine because of contract disputes. Around 80 percent of the Russian gas bound for Europe runs through Soviet-era pipelines in Ukraine.
Europe and Russia are pursuing a series of new pipeline networks that would deliver Russian, Middle Eastern and Central Asian gas to European customers.
Azerbaijan is considered a vital gas partner for the Nabucco gas pipeline for Europe, though Baku is keen to expand its position as a regional energy giant.
Oettinger heads to Russia and Turkmenistan following his visit to Azerbaijan.