EU insists gas supply to Europe must not be affected
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Moscow and Kiev must honour their commitments to supply Europe with natural gas after Russia halted its supplies to neighbouring country Ukraine, European leaders have warned.
AFP - The new Czech EU presidency on Thursday insisted Moscow and Kiev must honour their commitments to provide natural gas to Europe after Russia halted supplies to Ukraine amid a payments row.
"All existing commitments to supply and transit must be honoured," said Czech Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra, just hours after his country assumed the EU presidency from France at the new year.
The EU presidency and the European Commission said in a joint statement that they were "concerned" by the turn of events.
"The Presidency and the Commission urge both sides and their governments to continue negotiations and rapidly reach a successful outcome so that gas supplies to the EU are not affected," the statement said.
Russia halted supply of natural gas to Ukraine on Thursday after the two ex-Soviet neighbors failed to agree on payment terms, sparking fresh concerns about the security of energy resources controlled by Moscow.
Ukraine's gas company, Naftogaz, confirmed that the volume of gas it was receiving from Russia had dropped, but promised that transit of supplies meant for customers downstream in Europe would be guaranteed.
The halt in Russian gas supply to Ukraine instantly recalled a similar cutoff in January 2006. This time however Ukraine and the EU say they have enough gas reserves to see them through the winter.
Around one-fourth of the gas used in the European Union -- more than 40 percent of the gas imported by the bloc -- comes from Russia, 80 percent of it moving in pipelines that pass through Ukraine.
Italy and Poland, two big consumers, said Thursday they had no immediate problem with their Russian gas deliveries.
"The EU trusts that we can count upon assurances given that gas supplies to the EU will be unaffected, as a demonstration of the reliability of its gas suppliers," said the EU's Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, adding that the situation at the EU border would be "monitored closely".
Both the EU presidency and the commission "are in contact with both sides," the statement said.
The Czech Republic assumed the EU's rotating presidency on Thursday for a six-month term.
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