Finance ministers seek a stable energy supply



Russia holds the G-8 presidency this year.
LOS ANGELES TIMES
MOSCOW -- Finance ministers from the Group of 8 industrialized nations, warning that "high and volatile energy prices" pose a threat to global economic growth, called Saturday for stepped-up efforts to ensure a stable worldwide energy supply.
Hosted by Russian President Vladimir V. Putin in a hotel near the Kremlin, the G-8 finance ministers meeting issued a communique calling for greater cooperation among oil producers, consumers and private industry. Maintenance of solid economic growth requires an improved market-oriented approach to providing sufficient oil, gas and other energy resources, it said.
The world community must "facilitate necessary investments in exploration, production, transportation and refining capacity, as well as improve energy efficiency," the ministers said.
The communique also praised rapid economic growth in recent years shown by Russia, which holds the G-8 presidency this year, and praised Russian commitments to boost aid to poor countries and to make early payments on its Soviet-era debt to the Paris Club of 19 creditor nations.
"We welcome the fact that Russia's good economic performance and improved fiscal position will allow it to join other G-8 countries in the area of development finance by stepping up its efforts in this field," it said.
A triumph for Putin
The statement's praise for Russia's accomplishments and policies appeared to mark a triumph for Putin just weeks after this country's G-8 presidency got off to a rocky start.
Russia's state gas monopoly tried on Jan. 1 to shut down supplies to Ukraine in a showdown over prices, and while the two sides reached a deal a few days later, the reduced pressure in natural gas lines passing through Ukraine led to a shortfall of supplies to other European countries.
That led to fresh doubts in Western Europe over Russia's reliability as an energy supplier just when the issue was at the top of the G-8 agenda.
The leaders of G-8 nations -- the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia -- are scheduled to hold a summit hosted by Putin in St. Petersburg July 15-17. Putin has stressed energy security, the fight against infectious diseases and education as three priority agenda items for the summit.

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