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Rome meeting brings vow to trim European dependence on Russian gas and oil amid Ukraine crisis

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ROME - The Group of Seven industrialized powers and the European Union have resolved to co-operate to keep Russian President Vladimir Putin from using oil and gas supplies as a weapon in the increasingly violent Ukrainian crisis, an official said Tuesday.

Britain's energy secretary, Ed Davey, said a two-day meeting in Rome found participants agreed to develop medium- and long-term policies to reduce the level of dependence on Russia's oil and gas by much of Europe.

The discussions yielded a united stance on the need to "disarm the Russian energy weapon" by reducing Europe's energy dependence, Davey told reporters.

That, however, could take years, he acknowledged.

A pipeline running across Ukraine carries gas from Russia to much of Western Europe, including Italy, the G-7 member nation that hosted the meeting in preparation for a full summit next month.

Washington has been bullish about pressing sanctions on Russia, which in March annexed Crimea, a strategic part of Ukraine. But participants said the discussions in Rome didn't deal with sanctions.

"We have moved to a common understanding that energy security is a collective responsibility," U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said.

In a statement, the G-7 and EU energy ministers encouraged the EU to develop emergency plans for energy supplies next winter at the regional level.

Ukraine, which is hard-strapped to pay for gas it receives from Russia, would be especially vulnerable to any cutoff by Moscow of energy supplies.

Specifically, Davey noted, the participants are encouraging efforts to provide so-called "reverse-flow" deliveries of gas from western Europe to Ukraine. Some such deliveries have begun, but are still small in size.

Meanwhile, Italy said it will look into receiving supplies of liquefied natural gas from Canada. That could make Canada effectively a competitor with the United States in tapping Europe's market for methane resulting from the boom in fracking in North America.

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