Russia urges energy transit states to use EU alerts
Russian FM urged energy transit countries on its border to sign up for an "early warning" mechanism designed to protect from potential supply cuts.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday urged energy transit countries on its border to sign up for an "early warning" mechanism designed to protect European oil and gas consumers from potential supply cuts.
Lavrov said Russia had immediately agreed to the European Union's request to create the warning system, which was used for the first time last month. It wanted the system to expand to include its ex-Soviet neighbours, across whose territory pipelines take Russian oil and gas westwards.
"We originally advocated that transit countries participate in such an early warning mechanism," Lavrov said.
"The question of how to engage transit countries in an early warning mechanism to safeguard from interruptions in supply also remains on the agenda," he told a news conference.
Europe relies on Russia for a quarter of its gas and a large proportion of its oil, much of which must cross the territories of Belarus and Ukraine. Disputes between the states have led to several supply disruptions in recent years.
Russia is locked in stalemate with Belarus over oil pricing and, though crude continues to flow to Europe via the ex-Soviet state, customers in Germany and Poland are concerned a prolonged dispute could result in supplies along the route being cut off.
Moscow and the European Union agreed in November to use the "early warning" mechanism. Its first application was a success, averting a potential disruption to oil supplies via Ukraine that flared up in late December.
In this instance, Russia warned the European Union of potential oil supply problems, allowing Brussels to coordinate alternative supply arrangements if needed.
Lavrov did not specify the role that transit countries might be expected to play in this process. Neither Belarus nor Ukraine have commented publicly on the issue.
An official with Ukrainian state energy company Naftogaz told Reuters he had no knowledge of his company being invited to join the process.
Oil continues to flow to Belarus and via Belarus to the European Union despite the failure by Moscow and Minsk to clinch a new oil supply deal during talks at the weekend -- the third set of failed negotiations since New Year.
Lavrov did not comment specifically on this issue.
The dispute centres on the tariffs Belarus must pay for Russian oil and resulted in a brief interruption in supplies to Belarussian refineries.
It has not affected transit supplies to Europe, but was a contributing factor to oil's push to a 15-month high above $83 a barrel.
Russia has repeatedly clashed with ex-Soviet states over energy pricing in recent years, prompting politicians from the European Union and the United States to accuse the Kremlin of using its energy might to bring its neighbours to heel.
Russia says it wants simply to bring energy prices and transit fees into line with the market after subsidising its neighbours for many years with preferential terms.
Germany and Poland would be worst affected should the dispute with Belarus affect supplies to Europe.
Germany last year received 350,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude via the Druzhba pipeline, or just under 15 percent of its total consumption. Refineries belonging to Total, Shell and BP are among the biggest buyers.
Reuters Last Mod: 12 Ocak 2010, 21:13