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EU suggests Moscow, Kiev resume tripartite gas talks
The European Union has suggested that Moscow and Kiev resume as soon as possible tripartite gas talks and reach an agreement, the EU Council said Friday in a final communique following an extraordinary foreign ministerial meeting on Ukraine.
"The Council supports the [European] Commission's efforts to facilitate a resumption of the negotiations between Ukraine and Russia on the conditions of gas supply, and urges both sides to reach an agreement as soon as possible," the document said.
"The agreement is critical in safeguarding the security of gas supply to Ukraine as well as the unhindered transit of natural gas through Ukraine. These two objectives should be pursued by the Russian Federation and Ukraine and no actions should be taken by any side that could negatively impact on achieving them," it said.
On August 14, Ukraine's Verkhovna Rada (parliament) passed a government-submitted package of anti-Russian measures as 244 lawmakers supported the document.
Ukrainian sanctions could include a ban on Russian gas transit through Ukraine, but experts told Itar-Tass that the ban could be excluded from Ukraine's planned sanctions list regarding Russia.
"The Council looks forward to the upcoming trilateral EU-Russia-Ukraine consultations on energy at ministerial level in September and expresses the hope that full use of these consultations can be made in order to deliver concrete progress," the EU Council's statement said.
"The security of energy supplies, including through improved interconnections, is of utmost importance for the EU. The Council reiterates that the Ukrainian gas transit system is in urgent need of modernization in order to secure safe energy supplies through the territory of Ukraine," it said.
"The Council calls on the Ukrainian authorities to closely coordinate with the Commission any actions which could put at risk smooth energy supplies to the EU," the statement said.
The statement lacks any direct mention of Kiev's proposal to ban Russian gas transit through Ukraine.
Russian energy giant Gazprom on June 16 switched Ukraine's oil and gas company Naftogaz to prepayment for gas supplies because Kiev failed to pay part of its gas debt by the deadline of 10:00 Moscow Time on June 16.
Gas supplies to Ukraine were halted, but transit volumes were reportedly passing via Ukraine to Europe in line with the schedule.
Gazprom said June 16 that Naftogaz's past due debt for supplied Russian gas totaled $4.458 billion: $1.451 billion for November-December 2013 and $3.007 billion for April-May 2014.
Russia recently raised the gas price for Ukraine to $485.5 per 1,000 cubic meters, but Ukraine has insisted the price should be lowered to that of this year's first quarter ($268.5 per 1,000 cu m).
Moscow increased the price for Kiev to $385.5 per 1,000 cu m in the second quarter of 2014 because Ukraine failed to fulfill its commitments under an additional agreement concluded in December 2013, which obliged the country to pay for supplied volumes of Russian gas in time.
Another raise to $485.5 per 1,000 cu m was due to the cancelation of the Kharkov Accords with Ukraine, which had been struck in 2010 and stipulated that Russia's lease of naval facilities in Crimea [then part of Ukraine] would be extended by 25 years beyond 2017 - until 2042. The accords also envisioned a $100 discount.
Crimea refused to recognize the legitimacy of authorities propelled to power in Ukraine during a coup that rocked the country in February 2014. The peninsula held a referendum and reunified with Russia in mid-March, seceding from Ukraine after some 60 years as part of it.
[Source: Itar Tass, Brussels, 16Aug14]
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