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EU's chief executive heads to Azerbaijan in search of gas deal

·1-min read
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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will travel to Baku on Monday to seek more natural gas from Azerbaijan, the EU's executive said, as the European Union seeks to reduce its reliance on Russian energy.

"Amid Russia's continued weaponisation of its energy supplies, diversification of our energy imports is a priority for the EU," the Commission said on Twitter. "President von der Leyen and (Energy) Commissioner Kadri Simson will be tomorrow in Azerbaijan to further strengthen the cooperation."

According to a draft document seen by Reuters on July 14, the Commission has proposed to EU countries a deal with Azerbaijan to increase imports of natural gas and support the expansion of a pipeline to do this.

The Commission was not immediately available for comment. EU governments have already agreed a gradual oil embargo on Russia.

Meanwhile, Russian gas transit via Poland has stopped this year and gas shipments via Ukraine have been curtailed by Moscow's Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.

Germany, the world's fourth-biggest economy, is preparing for all scenarios including a complete stop to Russian gas supplies even once a regular 10-day maintenance period on the giant Nord Stream 1 pipeline is set to end later this week.

On Twitter on Sunday, Russia's ambassador to international bodies in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, said: "Russia never refused to continue natural gas supplies to Europe and fully complies with its contractual obligations."

(Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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