Belarus seeks gas discount
Moscow, December 25, 2010
With less than one week until the New Year, Belarus has yet to let up on its demands for Russia to agree on a lower 2011 gas price, prompting both Prime Ministers to discuss the gas contract by phone.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his Belarussian counterpart Sergei Sidorsky had a telephone conversation about the fulfilment of their current gas contract, Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Each year the neighbours make amendments to their five-year gas contract that expires at the end of 2011.
While Belarus, which transports one-fifth of Russia's gas to Europe, has received concessions in the past, Moscow says none are likely this year - raising concerns that supplies to other countries could be disrupted in case of a standoff.
The gas dispute comes as Moscow and Minsk have agreed on oil export duties, another contentious issue that had made investors nervous at the height of the cold season in Europe.
Gazprom, Russia's state-owned gas export monopoly, will not cut gas prices for Belarus in 2011, but will reduce them by 15 per cent in 2012 under a new contract, its deputy chief executive was quoted as saying on Friday.
The current contract, signed in 2006 states that in 2011 Belarus will pay European rates for gas, but Minsk hopes that the creation of a free-trade zone between the two countries will help get it discounts.-Reuters