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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Turkey in talks with Russia, Ukraine to end gas dispute

Ankara (ANTARA News/Xinhua-OANA) - Turkey`s Energy and Natural Resources Minister Mehmet Hilmi Guler said on Saturday Turkey was holding talks with Russia and Ukraine to end their natural gas dispute.

Turkey continued its mediation to solve the natural gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine, Guler was quoted as saying by the semi-official Anatolia news agency.

"We have talked with Gazprom (Russia`s gas company) and Naftogaz (Ukraine`s gas company), and the energy ministers of two countries," Guler said.

Guler said he met Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Korsunsky to Turkey on Thursday, and discussed recent developments and proposals for a settlement.

Korsunsky conveyed him a letter signed by deputy prime minister of Ukraine, head of Naftogaz executive board and European commissioner for energy, which is about Ukraine`s demands from Turkey for a settlement, Guler said.

Turkey knew well about its responsibilities to provide natural gas for not only its citizens but also for Europe, and hoped that the dispute would be solved as soon as possible, according to the minister.

On Jan. 6, Guler announced the flow of natural gas from the western line of Russia to Turkey via Ukraine completely stopped.

Russia cut off gas supply to Ukraine on New Year`s Day after the two countries failed to come to terms on Ukraine`s payment of arrears and prices for 2009.

A week later, Russia stopped pumping all gas to Europe through Ukraine, saying it had been forced to do so because Ukraine closed down all gas transit routes to Europe.

European Union (EU) energy experts urged European producers on Friday to hike production as Russian gas supplies to Europe via Ukraine remained cut-off.

"The extent of the current gas crisis is unprecedented in European history," energy experts from the 27 EU member states said in a statement after a meeting with industry representatives under the framework of the EU`s gas coordination group on Friday in Brussels.

They discussed the impact of the current gas crisis and evaluated each country`s situation.

As a short-term measure, EU energy experts called for the increase of production in Norway, the Netherlands, Britain, Romania and Poland to compensate the loss of Russian gas, to the maximum capacity of production and transport means.

"For example, the Netherlands said (it) could increase its production by 10 percent during two weeks," they said.

Another proposal is to increase the withdrawal from gas storage to the maximum capacity, which many EU countries had already been forced to do.

Some most affected EU countries have also implemented fuel switching, replacing gas with other energy sources, while Bulgaria and Slovakia introduced limitation of gas consumption for industry and Hungary temporarily limited gas supplies to large consumers.

EU energy experts said the current crisis showed the need for the quick implementation of mid-long term measures, such as to improve interconnectivity between member states, diversify energy sources and increase investment in storage.

All Russian gas supplies to Europe via Ukraine were shut down on Wednesday as a gas row between Russia and Ukraine escalated, causing a supply crisis for a number of EU countries.

At least 15 European nations, mostly in Central and Eastern Europe, had reported a halt in Russian gas shipments by Wednesday.

Caught up in the gas row and hit by freezing weather, several EU countries were faced with a serious gas crisis, with factories shut down, schools closed and thousands of people left without gas for heating.

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