Russian minister reassures about oil supplies to Europe (Lead)

August 29th, 2008 - 9:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Berlin/Dushanbe, Aug 29 (DPA) Russia Friday assured that it was doing its best to ensure a stable supply of oil to Europe despite a diplomatic fallout in the aftermath of the Georgian conflict.Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko said maintaining credibility as a “reliable” oil supplier was the priority for his country, news agency Interfax reported.

“Our position is that we will do everything we can so the Druzhba can keep working stably and supply enough oil for European consumers,” Shmatko told journalists in the Tajik capital of Dushanbe, referring to the name of the main supply pipeline.

His comments came amid worries in Europe that Russia might use its control over oil supplies as a political tool, such as in the past when it once cut off the flow of oil to the Ukraine in a pricing dispute.

Earlier Friday, the British paper The Daily Telegraph said that an unnamed government official had warned clients to prepare for a possible cut-off in shipments to Poland and Germany.

“It is believed that executives from lead-producer Lukoil have been put on weekend alert,” the British daily said.

It said it had been informed by a “high-level business source” that the executives had been “told to be ready to cut off supplies as soon as Monday”.

The German government, however, has not discerned any signs that Russia might cut oil deliveries to Europe as part of its response to the crisis over Georgia, a spokesman said Friday.

“We firmly assume that contracts will be adhered to,” government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm said. “There are no signs thus far that contracts and approved deliveries will not be adhered to.”

Moscow has been ostracized by Western leaders after driving back a Georgian offensive to re-take its separatists region and, with Russian troops still in the area, recognising the province as independent.

European Union (EU) heads were to hold an emergency summit Monday where, Wilhelm said, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s aim was that the summit would send “a clear political signal of determination”.

Wilhelm said the EU was united in backing the six-point plan put forward by French President Nicolas Sarkozy Aug 12 during visits to Moscow and Tbilisi and subsequently signed by Russian President Dimitry Medvedev and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.

Georgia’s territorial integrity had to be respected, he said.

Merkel telephoned Medvedev Thursday to make clear she saw Russian recognition of the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Georgia as “absolutely not acceptable”.

In response to a question, Wilhelm said the chancellor had not been in contact over the past week with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, seen by many observers as the driving force behind the new hardline approach from the Kremlin.

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