Russia's invasion of Ukraine has triggered sweeping Western sanctions that threaten to disrupt commodity flows, raising the spectre of gas shortages, blackouts and further price increases.

Italian foreign minister and the head of the country's energy group Eni are due to hold high-level talks in Qatar.
Italian foreign minister and the head of the country's energy group Eni are due to hold high-level talks in Qatar. (Reuters)

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio has flown to Qatar to discuss energy cooperation between the two nations as Italy stepped up efforts to secure new gas supplies in light of the Ukraine crisis.

Underscoring the sudden drive to bolster ties with the gas-rich Gulf state, Prime Minister Mario Draghi also spoke to the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, with energy high on the agenda, Draghi's office said in a statement on Saturday.

Di Maio and the head of Italian energy group Eni, Claudio Descalzi, were due to hold high-level talks in Qatar over the weekend, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The previously unannounced trip follows a visit by the two men to Algeria on Monday, where they asked for an increase in gas supplies from the North African country.

READ MORE: Russia-Ukraine stand-off: What are Europe’s natural gas alternatives?

Plans to cut Russian gas imports

Energy Transition Minister Roberto Cingolani was quoted as saying on Saturday that Italy aimed to rapidly cut more than half its Russian gas import and to be independent of Russian supplies within two or three years.

In an interview with Corriere della Sera newspaper, Cingolani said he and Draghi would meet European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Brussels on Monday to discuss placing a price cap on the purchase of Russian gas supplies.

"In an emergency period, one can fix a maximum price ... above which European operators cannot buy," he said, adding that the move was needed to prevent Russia's Gazprom profiting from surging energy prices.

Italy uses gas to generate 40 percent of its electricity and imports account for more than 90 percent of its gas needs. 

Last year 40 percent of those imports came from Russia and the government has said it wants to cut its reliance.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies