Eastern European leaders gather in the Azerbaijani capital Baku on Friday for a summit aimed at promoting energy supply routes from the Caspian region to Europe that bypass Russia, AFP reported.

Leaders of the Baltic nations, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Poland, and Ukraine will be joined by Turkish President Abdullah Gul for the first time to discuss joint energy projects, including proposed oil and gas pipelines.

Turkey has become a growing player in the Middle East and Caucasus energy trade and has pushed for a greater diplomatic role in the volatile Caucasus region, scene of an armed conflict between Russia and Georgia in August.

A US delegation led by Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman will also attend. On Thursday, he said Washington wanted to encourage diversity of supply and said there were difficulties with a Russian plan for a new gas pipeline to Europe.

Bodman said Russia`s South Stream project to build a gas pipeline under the Black Sea to Bulgaria and on to southern and central Europe "is a very complicated project and requires more financing.

"We support projects which are being implemented by suppliers, transit countries and energy consumers that will contribute to global energy security," Bodman told reporters in Baku.

Washington has strongly backed routes for delivering Caspian oil and gas to Europe that bypass Russia including the European Union`s flagship Nabucco gas pipeline and a proposed gas pipeline under the Caspian from Central Asia.

Russia has long insisted it is the dominant power in the Caucasus and fought a brief war with Azerbaijan`s neighbour Georgia in August, raising concerns about the security of supplies through the Caucasus.

The summit follows the unveiling by the European Commission on Thursday of a new plan to boost energy supply security and cut back EU dependency on Russia.

The European Union`s executive body said it wanted to strengthen crisis mechanisms and boost oil and gas stocks to respond to any disruption in supply.

The plan emphasised developing a "southern gas corridor" to transport supplies from the Caspian Sea and Middle East regions, bypassing Russia, as well as an energy ring linking Europe and southern Mediterranean countries.