Over the weekend Russian President Vladimir Putin has pledged to reduce Russia’s dependence on transit countries, such as Ukraine, Belarus and Poland, in order to ensure smooth energy deliveries to its clients in Europe, according to MosNews. He said that his country will insist on playing by market rules in the energy sphere.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who met with Putin in his residence in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi on Sunday, Jan. 21, stressed Russia’s importance as an energy provider to Europe and called for “irritations” in supplies to be avoided.

“We will in the most active way possible develop our transport network in order to have the opportunity to deliver our resources to our main consumers directly,” Putin was quoted by the Associated Press at the end of his talks with Merkel.

Putin’s statement appeared to be in response to European concerns about Russia’s reliability as an energy supplier, which were underscored by a three-day cutoff beginning Jan. 8 of the Druzhba pipeline carrying Russian oil through Belarus due to a dispute between the two Slavic neighbors.

Though the brief shutdown did not threaten Germany’s supplies, Merkel noted at the end of talks with Putin that “there were irritations at the beginning of the year” which should be avoided in the future.

Russia’s reputation had also been damaged by last year’s price dispute with Ukraine and temporary shortages of Russian gas to European customers.

Putin said Russia would expand its transport network by speeding up work on constructing a gas pipeline to Germany which goes under the Baltic Sea, bypassing Poland, as well as building on oil pipeline leading to Russia’s Pacific Coast.

The Russian leader also insisted on establishing transparent market rules with all its partners — European consumers as well as ex-Soviet republics who buy and transport Russian oil and gas.

“We will be building relations with all our partners — both transit states and consumers of hydrocarbons on an equal, understandable and transparent basis,” Putin said. “Yes to partnership ... but no to free-riding..”

Putin later told Russian reporters that Russia was also offering to construct a gas reservoir in Germany in order to guarantee energy security on the continent and that it could also consider building a branch of the underwater pipeline to Poland and Sweden, the Interfax news agency reported.

Merkel said she understood that Russia wanted to sell its energy resources to ex-Soviet neighbors like Belarus on market conditions, but stressed that “we need reliability.”

She also said that both Europe and Russia were dependent on each other as consumers and suppliers of energy “in a good sense” and called for establishing that special partnership in the planned new cooperation agreement between Russia and the EU.

Russia supplies about a quarter of Europe’s gas needs and about a third of Germany’s.