October 28, 2019 / 4:40 PM / 25 days ago

Russia, Ukraine gas talks need sense of urgency - EU's Sefcovic

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Russia and Ukraine need a sense of urgency in their talks on gas transit for Europe, the European Union’s energy chief Maros Sefcovic said after the latest round of talks he chaired in Brussels on Monday failed to yield progress.

Vice President of the European Commission for the Energy Union Maros Sefcovic speaks during a news conference at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium October 28, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman

While the bulk of Russian gas sent to Europe flows via Ukraine, there are a number of obstacles to a new deal, such as a political row between Kiev and Moscow, a pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine, and litigation between Russian gas supplier Gazprom (GAZP.MM) and Ukraine energy company Naftogaz.

“My message today in all our meetings ... was that the time is flying. And, given the date, there is and there must be a clear sense of urgency,” he told a news conference. “I am disappointed by today’s outcome.”

The current gas transit agreement between Moscow and Kiev expires after Dec. 31.

He said the sides lacked the “political will” and Russia demanded that solutions to the Stockholm arbitration between Gazprom and Naftogaz, anti-monopoly decisions and future volumes of its direct gas supplies to Ukraine were all part of any deal.

“The parameters, which I presented have been acceptable to Ukrainian partners ... unfortunately ... the Russian delegation was not prepared to do the same.”

“We all agreed that disruption of supplies is a non-option,” Sefcovic said. “Nevertheless, we in the EU are fully prepared for any scenario.”

The gas talks between Ukraine, Russia and the European Union will continue at the end of November, just a month before the current deal expires, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said after talks.

There was not much progress achieved from a Naftogaz point of view, its chief executive, Andriy Kobolyev, told reporters after the talks.

“We had pretty much the same view” as the European Union and Mr. Sefcovic, he said, adding “this proposal is constructive”.

Naftogaz have yet to see any formal proposal from Russia on the settlement, but at the same time opposes the package deal proposed by the Russian side as “unfeasible and unpragmatic”.

Sefcovic said Ukraine was on track to have a fully established transition system on Dec. 17 at the latest. Should there be slippage, he said sides could turn to a short-term solution from Jan. 1 before a long-term contract is worked out.

Reporting by Jonas Ekbloom and Marine Strauss, Writing by Gabriela Baczynska and Polina Devitt; Editing by Lisa Shumaker/David Evans

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