* U.S. official cautions about relying on Russian gas
* Reforms to pave way for investments, including in energy
* Looking toward the TAP pipeline, LNG developments
By Benet Koleka
TIRANA, Sept 9 The United States has encouraged
Serbia and EU-member Slovenia to diversify their energy sources
away from Russian gas to make sure any potential disruptions
will not hurt their economies, a senior U.S. official said on
Wrapping a tour of Slovenia, Serbia, Kosovo and Albania,
Mary Burce Warlick, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of
State for Energy Resources, said she urged them to look at ways
to strengthen their energy security by diversifying its sources.
Warlick said the United States believes energy security
issues in Europe are very important and "really fundamental to
national security issues more broadly".
Serbia, a candidate to join the European Union, relies
almost exclusively on Russian gas supplies while Slovenia
imports less than half of its gas from Russia while Albania and
Kosovo, both staunch U.S. allies, import no gas from Russia.
"I sensed a real openness on the part of really all
countries with whom we engaged to try to identify those
solutions, partnering with Europe and us and many others to try
to find a way to achieve some of those solutions," Warlick said.
Warlick, a former ambassador to Serbia, said the United
States had been discussing energy diversification with a number
of European countries that rely on Russian gas.
The cutoff of Russian gas from Ukraine in 2009 drove home
the importance of diversification in European capitals.
"Our approach has been not to say that Russian gas shouldn't
remain as it does an important part of the energy equation in
Europe but simply for all countries to think a little bit again
on how they position themselves to better diversify their energy
mix," she told Reuters in an interview in Tirana.
The United States has suggested either new investment or
connections with neighbouring countries that will enable them to
consider "developing a more diversified mix of gas on the one
hand but also look to develop other resources", Warlick said.
They could tap into additional volumes of gas that might
come online in 2020 when the TAP pipeline brings Azeri gas to
Europe as well as from increasing volumes of LNG thanks to a LNG
terminal projects in and around Europe, she said.
"I think the reform measures that have taken in many
countries are going to pave the way for increased investment,
including in the energy sector," Warlick added.
(Reporting By Benet Koleka, Editing by David Gregorio)