EU calls for a rapid resolution of Russia-Belarus gas conflict

The European Union on Thursday called on Belarus and Russia to quickly resolve their dispute over gas deliveries and guarantee continued and adequate supplies to EU nations.

EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said the EU was "following the situation very closely since it may affect gas supplies to the European Union."

"I call on the two parties to reach as soon as possible a satisfactory agreement that does not put in question gas transits to the EU," he added.

Piebalgs said he will discuss the Belarus-Russia dispute at a Jan. 4 meeting of the Gas Coordination Group that deals with measures to safeguard security of natural gas supplies to the EU nations.

It comprises representatives of energy industries and consumer groups. It last met Oct. 6 to discuss the EU energy demand for the current winter. The group was created after last winter's cutoff of gas to Ukraine by Russia because of a pricing dispute.

Russia is now locked in a similar dispute with Belarus. The Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom has warned of a New Year's Day cutoff of gas unless Belarus pays more, reports AP.

Such a cutoff could jeopardize deliveries of Russian gas across Belarus to Gazprom clients in the EU and trigger a repeat of last year's blow to Russia's image as a reliable provider of energy. Gazprom wants Belarus to pay more than twice the current price for gas and hand over a 50 percent stake in its gas distribution system.

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