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EU Commissioner Welcomes Russia-Ukraine Gas Deal --> Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko (L) with British Prime Minister Tony Blair at an EU summit on 1 December 2005 (AFP) 4 January 2006 --  The European Union has welcomed an agreement between Russia and Ukraine to settle a bitter dispute over gas pricing which earlier this week hit gas supplies to Europe.

EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said the agreement was vital if Russia and Ukraine were to retain their position as "reliable and secure gas suppliers of Europe".

He also said Europe must learn the lessons of the dispute and find alternative sources of energy.

"Europe needs a clear and more collective and cohesive policy of security of energy supply. Today the issue of security of energy supply is only really considered at the national member state level, but in reality we need a much greater, European-wide approach to this issue."

Austrian Economics Minister Martin Bartenstein said his government -- as current holder of the EU presidency -- would put energy issues on the top of the bloc's agenda for the next six months.

Earlier on 4 January, energy experts from the EU's 25 member nations held emergency talks in Brussels to discuss the impact of the Russia-Ukraine gas dispute on Europe's energy supplies.

Ukraine is the main transit route for Russian gas and the decision by Russia's state-controlled gas company Gazprom to cut supplies to Ukraine, which led to a temporary drop in deliveries to European customers, raised concerns about the vulnerability of the EU to Russian gas supplies.

Gazprom and its Ukrainian counterpart Naftohaz announced on 4 January that they had agreed on the price Ukraine is to be charged for Russian gas.


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