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Biden Calls On Nations To Focus On Energy Security

  • RFE/RL

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (right) will also be meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left) in Istanbul to discuss the conflict in Syria and Iraq. (file photo)

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (right) will also be meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left) in Istanbul to discuss the conflict in Syria and Iraq. (file photo)

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has said Europe should continue to diversify its energy supplies to reduce dependence on Russia.

Speaking at the Atlantic Council's energy security summit in Istanbul on November 22, Biden said Russia should not be allowed to use its gas and oil as a geopolitical tool.

"Now, now, now is the time to act," Biden said. "What's happening in Ukraine only underscores the urgency."

Russia, Ukraine, and the European Union recently reached a $4.6 billion deal that will guarantee Russian gas to Ukraine and on to the European Union.

Moscow had cut off gas supplies to Ukraine in June over unpaid debts, a move that followed the toppling of the pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych and Russia's annexation of Crimea in March.

The deal eased fears of a repeat of the situation in the winter of 2009, when a spat over Ukraine's gas bill prompted Russia to cut off energy supplies to Europe for nearly two weeks.

Biden said he had no doubt that Russia would continue to be a main energy supplier in the region, but he urged Moscow to refrain from using energy as a pressure tool.

"This is about energy security. To achieve it, Europe needs to ensure it diversifies," Biden said. "Russia can and should be a player, but Russia has to play by the rules."

Biden also welcomed an agreement between Iraq's central government and its northern Kurdistan region over the management of oil exports, which put an end to a long-lasting dispute that has threatened the unity of Iraq.

The two sides last week struck a deal in which Kurds will give half of their overall oil shipments to the federal government and Baghdad will pay overdue civil servants' salaries in the region.

"I was encouraged to see the recent interim agreement between Baghdad and Irbil on managing exports and revenue sharing," Biden said.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu also spoke, outlining major diversification projects in the works.

"Energy should not be used as a weapon. ... Energy is a tool for peace," Davutoglu said.

ALSO READ: Biden Chastises Russia In Kyiv

Biden is in Turkey to also discuss the conflict in Syria and Iraq with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

One of his visit's aims is to persuade Turkish leaders to play a bigger role in the U.S.-led international coalition against Islamic State (IS) militants.

Tensions have emerged between Washington and Ankara over Turkey’s reluctance to play a military role in the fight.

So far, Turkey's sole contribution to the coalition has been allowing a contingent of Iraqi Peshmerga Kurdish fighters to transit Turkish territory to fight IS militants for control of the Syrian border town of Kobani.

Ankara has so far refused to permit U.S. warplanes to stage bombing raids from the Incirlik air base in southern Turkey, forcing them to make far longer sorties from the Persian Gulf.

Biden and Erdogan were also involved in a highly-publicized dispute in October after the U.S. vice president suggested Ankara had encouraged the growth of the IS group.

Erdogan declared his relationship with Biden would be "history" if he had said such a thing.

The two sides also argued over whether Biden had issued an apology.

With reporting by Reuters and AP
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