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KyrgyzGaz Says It Can't Repay Debt To Uzbekistan

BISHKEK -- KyrgyzGaz head Salamat Aytikeev says the energy company is unable to pay Kyrgyzstan's natural gas debt to Uzbekistan, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

Uzbekistan began suspending its gas deliveries to the southern Kyrgyz cities of Osh, Jalalabad, and Batken on September 22, citing the debt as the primary reason.

Aytikeev told RFE/RL that unpaid energy bills from residents amount to $5 million and that debts by companies and electric power plants make up the rest of KyrgyzGaz's $18 million debt to Uzbekistan.

Aytikeev said the only possible way to resolve the situation would be a state credit or after intergovernmental negotiations that would allow payment of the Kyrgyz debt to be delayed.

Kyrgyzstan currently buys Uzbek gas for $240 per 1,000 cubic meters, up from the $145 per 1,000 cubic meters that Uzbekistan charged the previous year but which Tashkent said was far below market prices.

Uzbekistan provides energy resources to Kyrgyzstan, while the Uzbeks are dependent on Kyrgyz water supplies.

Uzbekistan has on several occasions in previous years stopped exporting energy to Kyrgyzstan, souring relations.

Ties between the two have worsened over Kyrgyz plans to build hydroelectric power plants that might reduce the amount of water Uzbekistan would receive from Kyrgyzstan.

Russia's state-controlled Gazprom owns 75 percent of KyrgyzGaz.