Senior G8 officials will try on Thursday to resolve differences on energy policy, to enable leaders at a summit next month to back a package of measures improving global energy security.
Igor Shuvalov, Russia’s G8 “sherpa”, told the Financial Times he was confident the summit could agree on general principles aimed at achieving an “uninterrupted supply of energy resources to the world market to ensure economic growth”.
But a senior German official said the role of nuclear power, and the development of liquefied natural gas (LNG) resources, were two areas where aides drafting the final communiqué remained far apart.
Russia wants the mid-July summit in St Petersburg to commit itself to the development of infrastructure and technology to support its future exports of LNG, which involves converting natural gas into liquid for transport by tankers.
“Germany, like other G8 members besides Russia, is very cautious on this issue. We believe decisions on developing such energy supplies should be left to the market,” the official, who requested anonymity, said in Berlin.
Mr Shuvalov acknowledged that Russia hoped to include a statement on the importance of LNG to energy security and of making it more affordable. But he said governments’ role in this should be minimal, and that Moscow’s energy security proposals were based on market principles.
Gazprom, the gas monopoly, has been keen to develop Russia’s LNG industry, so it can diversify the markets to which it sells gas away from its heavy reliance on European consumers.
Russia’s biggest new LNG project is Shtokman in the Arctic, which could see gas exported to the US. Moscow may soon announce the international oil companies that will help it to develop the project.
While much debate on energy security focuses on security of supply, Mr Shuvalov said Russia was also emphasising “security of demand” – giving producers confidence that there would be a market for energy resources they spent money on developing.
He also acknowledged Russia wanted to include a statement on the need for nuclear power, but that not all G8 members agreed.
“Energy security cannot be achieved without further developing nuclear energy,” Mr Shuvalov said. The German official said Germany was isolated on the issue since Berlin, unlike other G8 members, is committed to phasing out nuclear power.
However, the new centre-left government in Italy had indicated it was also wary about supporting a pro-nuclear G8 communiqué.
Mr Shuvalov said the communiqué could contain a reference to the role of nuclear energy that would take account of differences between members.
The other issues made a priority by Moscow – education and tackling the spread of infectious diseases – would do little more than provide for “flowery declarations”, the German official said. World trade negotiations may impinge on the summit, if talks next week in Geneva fail to make significant progress. The official said the G8 might aim to “give the talks a significant push”.
The German foreign ministry said it may send Andreas Schockenhoff, a close ally of chancellor Angela Merkel, to attend a Moscow conference of Russian opposition politicians and non-governmental organisations critical of Russian president Vladimir Putin, just days before the summit.
His presence at the July 11-12 gathering would be an embarrassment for Mr Putin. Senior US politicians are also expected at the conference whose organisers include Garry Kasparov, the Russian opposition politician and chess grandmaster.