Gazprom And Belarus In Further Negotiations Over Gas Contracts
December 31, 2006 3:55am CST
Russian gas company Gazprom and Belarusian representatives resumed gas price negotiations in Moscow Saturday, ahead of the end-of-the-year deadline for an agreement on the price of Russian gas sold to Belarus. Terms for the transit of Russian gas across Belarusian territory to European customers are also part of the negotiations. An agreement could not be expected until Belarus sent its chief negotiator deputy prime minister Vladimir Semashko, said Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kuprianov Saturday. Belarusian Deputy Energy Minister, Eduard Tovpenets, arrived in Moscow Friday for the negotiations. If an agreement was not reached, Gazprom has threatened to cut off gas supplies to Minsk on January 1. The offer to Belarus was very generous, Kuprianov stressed. Gazprom is demanding a price of 105 dollars for 1,000 cubic metres of gas, which is more than double the previous price. It also wants control of the Belarusian Beltransgaz pipeline network. Most European consumers pay around 230 dollars. Minsk does not want to pay more than 75 dollars. Belarusian leader Aleksander Lukashenko has called the talks with Gazprom "extremely difficult," and earlier in the week hinted that Belarus would not accept a total cut-off of gas in the absence of a deal with Gazprom by the end of the year, saying "we will defend the interests of Belarusians." The remark was widely understood to imply that if Gazprom fails to send Belarus gas, then Belarus will siphon gas destined for European markets.