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Russia: Energy Tops Visit Of EU Troika


http://gdb.rferl.org/401EF47A-8138-4BF5-AB4B-9E81E81EA056_w203.jpg --> http://gdb.rferl.org/401EF47A-8138-4BF5-AB4B-9E81E81EA056_mw800_mh600.jpg No meeting of the minds on energy (epa) February 5, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Energy issues once again led the agenda as European Union officials traveled today to Moscow for talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.


Lavrov met with comprising External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, representing the current EU Presidency.


The high-level talks, however, failed to break the long-standing impasse between Moscow and Brussels over energy policy.


No To Charter


Lavrov said Russia remains opposed to an Energy Charter that would give foreign investors greater access to Moscow's oil and gas deposits and export pipelines.


"We see absolutely no need to form any supranational bodies," he said.


The Russian foreign minister said the terms of his country's energy cooperation with Europe had already been decided at the G8 summit of the world's major industrialized nations in St. Petersburg in July.


At the summit, Russia rejected European calls for it to ratify the Energy Charter.


Instead, Moscow agreed to a vaguely worded statement supporting the charter's principles. But without formal ratification, Russia's gas-export pipelines remained in the hands of the state-controlled Gazprom natural gas monopoly.


Fair Deal


EU countries are pushing for access to Russia's energy deposits and gas pipelines. Russia says Brussels must offer assets comparable in value in exchange for such access.


The EU also wants to include what it calls fair-trade principles in energy in a new EU-Russia partnership deal. But talks on a new EU-Russia agreement have been stalled since last year when Poland insisted that Moscow first end a ban on Polish meat and plant imports and ratify the Energy Charter.


Lavrov said the delays in forging a new Russia-EU agreement were "artificial." He added that Moscow expects Poland to take steps to resolve the standoff.


The 27-nation EU relies on Russia for about a quarter of its energy supplies. But pricing disputes with Ukraine and Belarus have temporarily interrupted supplies to Europe, raising questions about Moscow's reliability as a supplier.


Lavrov also suggested that the EU sanction transit countries that cause supply disruptions, an apparent reference to Ukraine and Belarus.


"We also noted during our talks today that some of the transit countries that created problems in the supply of energy resources from Russia to Europe are members of the Energy Charter Treaty, so members of this treaty can certainly use methods provided in it to discipline those transit countries."


Ukraine is a member of the Energy Charter Treaty. Belarus has signed the treaty, but has not ratified it.


German Foreign Minister Steinmeier said that Moscow and Brussels "need one another." Despite the difficulties, Steinmeier said he was optimistic the two sides would work out what he called "deficits in European-Russia cooperation."


(compiled from agency reports)

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