BRUSSELS – The Russian gas transit across Ukraine to Europe and business ties between Moscow and Kiev could ultimately help restore peace between Ukraine and Russia, the European Commission’s Energy Union chief told New Europe.
“I would like to think so because, of course, there is huge potential for the cooperation between Russia and Ukraine because I know how Russia wants to consolidate the image of reliable supplier and I know how important it is for the Ukraine to come across as a very reliable transit country,” European Commission Vice-President for Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič said in Brussels in an interview on the sidelines of a conference by the European Committee of the Regions on February 7. He was answering a question on whether energy relations between Moscow and Kiev could pave the way for peace between Russia and Ukraine.
“Over the last two years, we always managed to find a solution to for this challenge. And I know that now everybody is waiting for the ruling of the Stockholm arbitrator probably before summer,” he said, referring to the contentious relations between Russian gas monopoly Gazprom and Ukraine’s state-owned company Naftogaz Ukrayiny. Gazprom has charged Naftogaz for gas not taken in 2016 under the take-or-pay terms of a 10-year gas supply contract signed in 2009. Naftogaz has said it would refuse to pay anything to Gazprom until a ruling from the Stockholm court.
“I hope that we will find enough of good political will to sit together after that and to find a way how the transit through Ukraine would continue also after 2019,” the Commissioner told New Europe. “We’re definitely ready to help, mediate and also show how important this is for Europe. I think that it would be a very good investment in resolving all outstanding issues, which are still there between Russia and Ukraine,” Šefčovič said.
Russia, Ukraine and the EU held trilateral negotiations on the resumption of Russian gas deliveries at the end of 2016, but the parties did not reach an agreement related to signing an additional agreement to the principal contract for Russian gas supply, and Ukraine will not import natural gas from Russia without signing this document, Ukrinform quoted Ukrainian Energy and Coal Industry Minister Ihor Nasalyk as telling a press conference on February 7.
“Negotiations held before the New Year ended in nothing. Firstly, Ukraine can absolutely do without Russian gas. Secondly, we are a reliable transit country delivering Russian gas to Europe,” Nasalyk noted. Ukraine consumes about 150 million cubic metres of natural gas daily, and there are about 9.5 billion cubic metres of natural gas left in underground gas storage facilities, he said.
Russian wants to bypass Ukraine as a transit country and has pushed ahead the construction of the Nord Stream 2 and Turkish Stream pipelines. However, Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated that Russia is against politicizing natural gas deliveries. Last week, Putin signed a law on the ratification of the agreement with Ankara on the Turkish Stream gas pipeline.
Sputnik quoted Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu as saying on a visit to Kiev on February 10 that Turkish Stream is not aimed against Ukraine. “We consider all projects from the viewpoint of our national interest and energy security. We do not by any means intend to carry out steps through these projects that are directed against any country,” Cavusoglu said when asked whether the project was targeted against Ukraine.
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