No excuse for Russia not to turn gas on: EU (Second lead)

January 12th, 2009 - 6:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Brussels/Moscow, Jan 12 (DPA) Ukraine and the European Union (EU) have done everything Russia asked to guarantee the safe flow of gas to Europe, so Moscow has no excuse not to “immediately” turn the gas back on, the 27-nation grouping’s presidency said Monday.”The Russian conditions are fully fulfilled, and Russia has no reason not to restore gas supplies immediately,” Czech Energy Minister Martin Riman, whose country holds the EU’s rotating presidency, told journalists in Brussels.

Ukraine, which Sunday looked to have scuppered a deal aimed at re-starting the flow of gas to the EU when it attached a unilateral declaration to a joint Russia-Ukraine-EU monitoring agreement, has signed a new copy of the accord with no extra statements, he said.

Russian gas monopoly Gazprom earlier said it had received another copy of the accord signed without additions.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko had handwritten a comment “with declaration attached” next to her signature, drawing protest from Russia which had earlier signed a copy of the deal.

“A Gazprom delegation held negotiations this morning in Kiev, after which, the Ukrainian side signed (the agreement) without any extra provision or other,” Gazprom said in a statement.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, who oversees energy policy, and Gazprom chief executive Alexei Miller arrived in Brussels Monday, where they could again sign the document, a government spokesman said.

Riman spoke ahead of an emergency meeting of EU energy ministers called to discuss the gas row, which has left hundreds of thousands of people in Central and Southern Europe without heating in one of the coldest winters in decades.

The meeting is set to focus on the question of how the EU should strengthen its solidarity in the face of future crises, with ministers set to call for a revision to the bloc’s current law on gas supply security, diplomatic sources in Brussels said.

Attention is also likely to focus on the need for the EU to develop alternative energy supplies, both by building pipelines to bypass Ukraine and Russia and by turning to other technologies, such as solar, wind and wave power.

Twelve EU states and five EU neighbours have been hit by gas shortages since Gazprom turned off all supplies to and through Ukraine - the main transit route for Russian gas heading to Europe - in a row over contracts and allegedly unpaid bills.

And a deal which would have seen Gazprom reviving gas deliveries to Europe in return for the deployment of EU monitors in Ukraine ended in farce Sunday after Kiev submitted a last-minute annex to the contract - provoking Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, a former head of Gazprom, to revoke the agreement.

Gazprom claims $614 million in fines for the late payment of gas in November and December and says transit tariffs it pays to Kiev provides for the technical gas minimum in Ukraine’s pipelines.

The EU has already deployed monitors along the main gas pipeline from Russia through Ukraine to Europe.

It could take nearly three days for gas pumped from Siberia to reach Europe and gas pipeline systems to return to normal pressure.

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