Belarus, Russia sign gas transit fee agreement

MINSK, July 2 (Reuters) - Belarus and Russia on Friday signed a contract on new fees for Russian gas transit to Europe, resolving the last outstanding issue from last month's gas row, which had threatened to cut energy supplies to the EU.

Gazprom (GAZP.MM: Quote), Russia's gas export monopoly, agreed with Belarussian pipeline operator Beltransgaz on a new transit tariff of $1.88 for shipments of 1,000 cubic metres of gas through 100 kilometres of pipeline.

For Europe, gas rows between Moscow and its Western neighbours are an issue of energy security, given that Russia supplyies more than 20 percent of the EU's gas needs. Four-fifths of that flows via Ukraine and one-fifth via Belarus.

The dispute over gas payments and transit debts triggered a four-day stand-off between the ex-Soviet states last week and resulted in Russia's cutting gas supplies to Belarus, which in turn halted onward transit to EU countries Poland and Lithuania.

Russia triggered the row last month when it said Belarus owed it around $200 million for gas deliveries, accusing its neighbour of underpaying for supplies from the start of the year and of ignoring the higher rates set for 2010.

Supplies resumed after Minsk paid the bill, but Belarus retaliated by threatening to cut off Russian flows to Europe if Gazprom did not pay more for transit.

The contract signed on Friday also settled the issue of supply pricing, stipulating that Belarus pay Russia $169 per 1,000 cubic meters supplied in the first quarter of 2010; $185 for the second quarter; and $193-4 for the third quarter, up from the $150 Belarus had been previously paying.

Gazprom has a 50 percent stake in Beltransgaz, which it acquired in 2007 in the wake of a similar gas pricing dispute between the countries.

(Reporting by Andrei Makhovsky; writing by Vladimir Soldatkin and Jessica Bachman; editing by Jane Baird)


Partners: Social Network