Belarus says in 'no hurry' to discuss Russian gas price

Belarus has dismissed fears over a possible new gas row with Russia, saying that it has another two months to settle the price for Russian gas supplies in 2011.

"[Belarus] is in no hurry to solve this issue. We have at least 1.5-2 months to deal with the matter," Belarus' First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Semashko said on Thursday.

He said Minsk will make the first payment for the January gas deliveries in late February, as scheduled.

"We are prepared to become the first out of three states [of the Customs Union] to switch to equal prices by January 1. The corresponding requests for Russia have been made at various levels," he said.

Gazprom official spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said on Wednesday Russia and Belarus have yet to reach an agreement on reducing the gas price for Minsk in 2011.

He said changes could be brought only into the Russian-Belarusian contracts for 2012-2013. The changes are expected as Belarus recently ratified all the documents to create a common economic space with Russia and Kazakhstan.

Under the 2007-2011 contract between Russian gas giant Gazprom and Belarusian Beltransgaz, Belarus paid less for Russian gas than European states in 2008-2010. However, Minsk will have to pay the same price as others in 2011.

The average cost of gas for Belarus totaled $187 per 1,000 cubic meters in 2010. Next year the gas price for the ex-Soviet state will rise to $230 per 1,000 cubic meters.

Last week, Belarus' Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Kobyakov said Minsk and Moscow were in "difficult" talks on 2011 gas prices, adding that Gazprom had said its local and foreign sales would bring it equal profits by 2015.

Russian Ambassador to Belarus Alexander Surikov said last week Russia and Belarus were in talks on a possible decrease of gas prices if prices for oil grow significantly.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said earlier on Thursday that he hoped Russia will not be embroiled in any energy disputes with the CIS countries next year.

In this year's gas conflict with Minsk, Russia slashed supplies to Belarus after failing to reach agreement over payments in June, but later resumed them as Minsk paid off its $200 million debt to Gazprom.

MINSK, December 30 (RIA Novosti)


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