Russia remains a top energy partner for Europe

Russia remains a top energy partner for Europe, though lingering gas issues make oil and gas diversification a priority, a top U.S. official says.

A January row between Russian gas giant Gazprom and Ukrainian utility Naftogaz disrupted regional energy supplies as 80 percent of all Russian gas exports to Europe travel through Ukrainian territory.

Naftogaz has faced difficulties meeting its monthly debt obligation to Gazprom, putting the European energy sector on edge.

Richard Morningstar, the U.S. special envoy for Eurasian energy, said in an interview with European weekly New Europe that Washington would work with its European and international partners to avert another crisis as the winter heating season approaches.

“I hope that the conflict will not happen again,” he said. “No country, including Russia, wants it.”

Naftogaz, following the release of financial aid from the International Monetary Fund, said last week it would meet its September deadline.

The January crisis, however, breathed new life into the European effort to ease its dependency on Russian gas supplies through its $10.3 billion Nabucco gas pipeline and other networks.

Morningstar said the diversification effort was moving in the right direction but left the door open for a Russian role in the European energy sector.

“I would like to emphasize that Russia has been and remains the main and very important partner in supplying energy to Europe,” he said. “It is also important that Europe continue to work on the development of renewable sources, not to be dependent in the future.”