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EU-Russia Summit Tackles Energy Issues


Russia's President Vladimir Putin has sought to assure European Union leaders that his country is a reliable trading partner, following a brief disruption of Russian gas supplies to Ukraine and Europe in January.

In return, Mr. Putin told top European Union officials Thursday the EU countries must give Moscow a chance to buy into gas distribution networks in Europe.

Mr. Putin's comments came at the close of a one-day Russian-EU summit in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi.

The Russian president said Moscow is committed to preventing a recurrence of the gas cut-off. That brief crisis was triggered when a quarrel between Russia and Ukraine over prices sharply reduced the flow of gas to western Europe.

For their part, the Europeans - led by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso - pressed Russia to give up its monopoly on control of gas export pipelines.

Mr. Putin also urged the European Union to open talks aimed at developing a new framework agreement with Russia. The current Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, signed in 1997, expires next year.

Separately, the leaders signed deals making short-stay visas for travel between Europe and Russia easier to obtain.

Analysts had described the Sochi meeting as a chance for Mr. Putin to ease European gas supply concerns ahead of the summit of the Group of Seven leading industrial democracies plus Russia. Mr. Putin will host that meeting in St. Petersburg in July.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.
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