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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

CIS Agrees to United Energy Strategy

The 12 nations of the Commonwealth of Independent States on Wednesday agreed to forge a unified energy strategy and created a special Fuel and Energy Council to further integrate their oil, gas and electricity sectors.

"The fuel and energy complex of the CIS functions like connected vessels. ... Some countries have an energy surplus, and some are in deficit," Russian Energy Minister Igor Yusufov told reporters after meeting with his visiting CIS counterparts. "So the aim is to fulfill the demand and secure the markets."

The energy sectors of the countries of the commonwealth, a loose collection of every former Soviet republic except the three Baltic states, have had to contend with the damage wreaked on energy infrastructure by the collapse of the Soviet Union more than a decade ago.

Refineries were left without steady supplies of crude, and whole republics that used to get gas from the enormous state network were faced with the prospect of buying fuel at higher prices.

Some states, such as Georgia and Armenia, have been struggling to secure a regular electricity supply.

The decision to create the council was based on a proposal by the Ukrainian delegation at the CIS energy ministers' meeting in Moscow on Wednesday. No precise definitions for the council's tasks have been spelled out, but Yusufov said after the meeting that a comprehensive monitoring of output, projects and demand in each country is strategically important.

Representatives of countries dependent on their neighbors for their energy -- particularly Moldova and Belarus -- argued that along with securing supplies, closer cooperation within the CIS could also boost the capacity for potential fuel and energy exports.

The exporters -- particularly Russia, whose oil production is growing -- may look into expanding markets as well as ensuring that export routes through CIS neighbors are safe and secure, said Timerbulat Karimov, an oil analyst with the Aton brokerage.

"With natural gas, Russia in particular could seek more control of money collection for gas supplies to its immediate neighbors as well as make sure that the channels of export are physically secure," Karimov said.

Leonid Mirzoyan, oil analyst with Deutsche Bank, was skeptical whether the new body will be effective.

"The CIS itself is a pretty loose organization, so it is hardly possible to talk about any serious impact from this council," he said. "I personally have more faith in bilateral deals rather than multilateral ones."

The new body has yet to be fully defined and its exact structure is to be blueprinted by the end of the year, ministers said Wednesday.