(RFE/RL) -- A Russian delegation led by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is in Doha, Qatar, for talks with Qatari and Iranian officials on cooperation in natural gas exports.
The countries are the top three gas producers in the world. It is the second time in less than one month their representatives are gathering for talks.
On the eve of this latest meeting, Putin sought to allay the fears of gas consumers who viewed last month's meeting in Tehran as the start of a process that would eventually lead to the formation of an OPEC-like group of natural gas exporters.
The European Union, Russia's biggest gas customer, warned it could reconsider its energy policy if Russia, Iran, and Qatar formed a "gas OPEC."
Putin said on November 11 that "there are absolutely no grounds for such fears." The Russian prime minister said explicitly, "We are not establishing a cartel; we are not striking any cartel deals."
The three countries agreed last month to better coordinate their activities, which also raised concerns that Russia, Iran, and Qatar could place themselves in a position to influence world prices for gas.
Again, Putin dismissed this concern on November 11, saying the purpose of coordinating actions was "to ensure uninterrupted hydrocarbon supplies on global markets."
Between them, Russia, Iran, and Qatar have more than half of today's known natural gas reserves. However, while Russia is a leading natural gas exporter, Qatar mainly exports liquefied natural gas, and Iran is actually a gas importer due to lack of development of its gas fields.
The Doha meeting comes as Gazprom chief Aleksei Miller said he expects the price of natural gas exports to Europe to decrease next year in line with the falling price of oil on world markets.
Miller said gas prices would start to go down from the start of 2009, adding that the price of natural gas for Europe in the fourth quarter had been above $500 per 1,000 cubic meters, an all-time high.
With agency reports