The United Nations logo hangs in General Assembly hall before the start of the U.N. General Assembly 77th Session General Debate at the United Nations Headquarters on Tuesday in New York City. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 20 (UPI) -- As European nations seek to find new energy solutions in the wake of Russia's war in Ukraine, Italy has turned to Africa, its prime minister, Mario Draghi, said Tuesday, stating his country is willing to connect Europe to the resource-rich continent to lessen its dependency on Kremlin gas.
"The European Union is destined to look further and further south and Italy wants to be a bridge to the southern shore of the Mediterranean, to the entire African continent," he said before the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Draghi, a former president of the European Central Bank, told the world leaders assembled that in response to the war, Europe and its allies were quick to impose punishing sanctions against the Kremlin, which immediately attempted to divide the union by wielding its gas as a weapon of blackmail.
Since then, Italy has inked agreements with "numerous" African nations including Algeria, Angola and Democratic Republic of Congo that has aided Rome's ability to halve its Russian gas dependency with plans to be completely independent by 2024, he said.
"We want to develop green technologies together, to put Africa at the heart of the green transition," he said.
Prior to the war, Russia was the EU's main supplier of crude oil, natural gas and solid fossil fuels at a cost of roughly $100 billion annually. Massive punitive sanctions applied against the Kremlin over its aggression has seen Moscow use its energy resources as a cudgel.
Early this month, Russia's state energy giant Gazprom announced an indefinite shutdown of gas flows through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which accounts for 35% of Europe's total Russian gas imports, citing an oil leak.
The announcement came after the G7 nations agreed to a price cap on Russian oil.
Draghi argued that the increasing cost energy puts their economic recovery at risk, limits household purchasing power, damages business production capacity and restricts the commitment of Europe to Ukraine.
"We now need to do more, especially at the European level," he said. "As Italy has long argued, the European Union must impose a ceiling on the price of gas imports, which will also help us further reduce our payments to Russia.
"Europe must support the member states while they support Kyiv."
He added that the world must confront Russia's attack on "peaceful coexistence between nations" with multilateralism and by reaffirming the values that underpin the U.N. General Assembly, including respect for human rights, international cooperation and non-belligerence.
"Our reaction to the war in Ukraine serves to reaffirm that gratuitous violence cannot have room in the 21st century. Italy hopes that there will be a future in which Russia will return to respect for the principles it chose to sign in 1945," Draghi said, referring to the country being a founding member of the U.N. "A world divided into blocks, crossed by rigid ideological demarcations and military counterpositions, does not generate development, does not solve problems," he said.
"We must maintain our identities, but conduct international relations responsibly, legally, peacefully."