Ukraine and Russia should be able to reach an agreement by the end of 2019 on the transportation of natural gas to the European Union, a top EU official has said.
"If all goes well and if all actors work toward the same goal, I am confident that this process will be successfully completed by the end of this year," European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic said in Brussels on January 21 after chairing a meeting with Russian and Ukrainian officials.
The talks were attended by Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, and executives from Ukrainian state energy company Naftogaz and Russian gas giant Gazprom.
Sefcovic said he had proposed a compromise for the sides to work on before the next trilateral meeting scheduled for May.
The EU official also said he expected no problem with supplies of Russian gas via Ukraine to Europe this winter.
Kyiv fears losing revenue once the current 10-year contract expires at the end of 2019, amid tensions with Moscow over its annexation of the Crimea Peninsula in 2014 and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Sources from the negotiation teams told RFE/RL that Sefcovic floated a proposal for the parties to agree a new 10-year transit contract, with a guaranteed minimum yearly transit volume of 60 billion cubic meters.
Before the meeting, Naftogaz Deputy Chief Executive Yuriy Vitrenko accused Russia of delaying the talks until the Moscow-backed Nord Stream 2 natural-gas pipeline is built under the Baltic Sea.
"Then they will say, 'We are OK without any Ukrainian transits at all'," Vitrenko told Reuters.
Washington has strongly opposed the planned pipeline to bring Russian gas directly to Western Europe, bypassing the existing networks running through Ukraine.
Moscow and Kyiv have clashed about gas since 2005, leading to supply interruptions.