SOCHI, February 11. /TASS/. Russia will continue to insist Belarus should settle fully the overdue payments for gas, Russia's Minister of Energy Alexander Novak said confirming the fact of a meeting between deputy prime ministers of Russia and Belarus.
"Negotiations continue, the process still continues," he said. "We consider various calculations, figures, options. Generally speaking, we consider the long-term relations' approaches. With unconditional acknowledgement the overdue payments for the past year should be settled."
On Friday, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich held a meeting with Belarussian counterpart Vladimir Semashko. Belarus’ delegation led by Semashko had arrived in Moscow for talks on cooperation of Russia and Belarus.
Until now, issues of bilateral relations in the oil and gas sector remain to be resolved. Earlier, Semashko had said that his county was hopeful that a compromise on oil and gas issues would be reached with Russia not later that the first quarter of 2017. Also, issues related to supplies of Belarussian foodstuffs to the Russian market are still unresolved.
On February 7, Dvorkovich told reporters that Russia still expects Belarus to repay its gas debt for the year 2016. Earlier he had said that Belarus' debt for Russian gas supplies had reached around $550 mln as of January 28.
Belarus and Russia have been negotiating a reduction in gas prices since early 2016. Minsk insisted on lowering the price of Russian natural gas from $132 to $73 per 1,000 cubic meters and demanded that Russia switch to equal netback pricing. In response to underpayment of around $300 mln for Russian gas supplies Moscow cut its tax-free oil supplies to Belarus by more than a third.
In end-2016, Belarus transferred an advance payment for Russian gas and expressed the hope that the volume of oil supplies would be restored. However, Dvorkovich said that Russia had returned the advance payment and insisted on full execution of the gas contract. At the same time, he did not rule out that the settlement of the gas dispute with Belarus could be resolved in court.