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Belarusian Premier To Head To Moscow For Gas Talks

Belarus is turning to Prime Minister Sidorski to settle the dispute (file photo) (AFP) July 27, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Belarusian Prime Minister Syarhey Sidorski's office announced today that he will travel to Moscow on July 30 to seek a compromise with Russia's Gazprom on repayment of a $500 million debt.

A Belarusian delegation led by Energy Minister Alyaksandr Azyarets asked Gazprom to delay the payment for gas deliveries, which was due on July 23, during recent talks in Moscow, but the two sides failed to reach agreement.

Gazprom in January more than doubled the price it charges Belarus for natural-gas deliveries to $100 per 1,000 cubic meters. Prior to the new deal, Belarus had been paying a cut-rate fee of $46 per 1,000 cubic meters.

Belarus buys close to 21 billion cubic meters every year -- meaning its gas bill this year is set to rise from $1 billion to $2.1 billion.

Gazprom is expected to raise the price it charges Belarus for natural gas to European levels, currently more than $250 per 1,000 cubic meters, by 2011.

Europe Watches Closely

The latest development is being watched closely by Europe, which depends on Belarus as a transit state for about 20 percent of its gas imports from Russia.

In the days before Gazprom inked a new deal with Belarus on January 1, Minsk had threatened to siphon off Russian gas bound to Europe in the event of a gas shutoff.

A separate dispute between Russia and Belarus disrupted supplies of Russian crude oil bound for Europe for three days in January.

RFE/RL Belarus, Ukraine, And Moldova Report

RFE/RL Belarus, Ukraine, And Moldova Report

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