Russia, Belarus yet to agree on '11 gas price

By Alexander Gelogayev

MINSK, Dec 17 (Reuters) - Russia and Belarus are still in discussions over the price of Russian natural gas deliveries to Belarus in 2011, Belarus' Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Kobyakov said at a meeting with ministers on Friday.

"At the moment Belarussian-Russian talks are in progress over the question of the price of gas in 2011," said Kobyakov.

A dispute over gas payments and transit tariffs triggered a four-day standoff between the ex-Soviet neighbours in July and resulted in Russia cutting gas supplies to Belarus, which in turn halted onward transit to EU countries Poland and Lithuania. [ID:nLDE65O0X1]

The dispute ended when Russia's state-owned energy giant Gazprom (GAZP.MM: Quote), which sold just over 17 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas to Belarus in 2009, and Belarussian pipeline operators Beltransgaz agreed on supply pricing.

But that was just for 2010. Now the countries are sorting out pricing and tariff rates for 2011, and also for 2012-2014, at the same as Belarus, prepares for a presidential election on Dec. 19.

Gazprom has said it will not deliver gas to Belarus without a contract price. Two working weeks remain for Russia and Belarus to resolve the issue.

"According to an agreement between the two countries, in 2011, Gazprom and Belatransgaz must formulate the gas prices for 2012-2014," said Kobyakov, noting that the deal must adhere to customs union rules that will take effect on Jan. 1 2012.

Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan are already members of a customs union and signed a macroeconomic policy coordination agreement last month, an important part of their drive to create a free trade zone in 2012. [ID:nLDE6BF12M]

Kobyakov also noted that the 2011 gas price agreement with Russia will not be set within the framework of the customs union agreement as it will from 2012 onward.

Belarus pays the lowest price among Gazprom's customers but has repeatedly clashed with Moscow saying it should pay less for oil and gas if Moscow is serious about developing closer ties with Minsk.

One-fifth of Russia's gas exports to Europe go through Belarus, while the rest are shipped across Ukraine. (Reporting by Alexander Gelogayev; Writing by Jessica Bachman; editing by Keiron Henderson)


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