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MOSCOW, September 5 (Itar-Tass) - Russia and Ukraine have discussed their gas problem once again - this time at the level of foreign ministers. The parties remained committed to their original positions. Both ministers expressed the need to seek ways out of the conflict situation on the basis of international law and existing contracts, but either side proceeded from its own interpretation of the problem and did not rule out the possibility of recourse to international arbitration.
"As far as gas and other economic issues are concerned, we are guided by the established principles of respect for international obligations, including contracts and intergovernmental agreements," Lavrov said. "I think that those who are engaged in natural gas cooperation, and in general in issues related to free trade or trade liberalization, will seek answers to these questions professionally, without politicization or indoctrination," said the Russian foreign minister.
"Nobody’s attempts to drive anyone into a corner have ever contributed to the development of good relations, not to mention strategic relations,” Lavrov said. “Russia does not resort to such attempts."
At the same time, he recalled the recent statement by Russian presidential press-secretary Natalia Timakova to the effect that Moscow "is ready to defend its position in any international court."
Grishchenko believes that Kiev, too, has "enough arguments" to present its case "in any international court." At the same time the Ukrainian side "will do everything possible to find a solution to this issue in a bilateral format."
"We hope to find solutions that would meet the current market situation and international practice,” he said. “We are for the observance of international agreements and arrangements."
In response, Lavrov said that he fully agrees with the current international practice.
"We call for adherence to international treaties and agreements, including those between Russia and Ukraine," he pointed out.
About the possibility Ukraine might take the issue to international courts, if the negotiations with Russia on the revision of gas contracts were unsuccessful was mentioned by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich just recently. He said that one of the main arguments for a revision of the gas contracts was they had been signed "in violation of the existing agreements between the two countries."
"But if Russia disagrees with that, of course, we shall have to go to an international court. I see court hearings as our last resort, to be used when all our opportunities have been exhausted during the negotiations," Yanukovich said. But he expressed the hope that parties "have the wisdom to find a common solution without litigation."
In the first quarter of 2011 the price of Russian gas exported to Ukraine amounted to 264 dollars for one thousand cubic meters, in the second quarter, to 293 dollars, in the third, to 313, and in the fourth, to 347, with a discount of 100 dollars in accordance with the Kharkov agreement. The Ukrainian side insists on a revision of the pricing formula for Russian gas, for it believes that the base rate is above the European one. According to the Ukrainian side, the gas price should drop to 240 dollars per one thousand cubic meters.
Moscow, in turn, invites Ukraine to join the Customs Union and get a discount in exchange, like the one Belarus is entitled to. Kiev has used a variety of excuses to decline the offer.