BRUGES, April 24 /ITAR-TASS/. A ministerial meeting on gas between Russia, the European Union and Ukraine will most likely be held in Brussels on April 28, Russian Permanent Representative to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov said.
He thus confirmed a statement made by Dominique Ristori, the European Commission’s Director General for Energy, that there was the understanding and willingness to hold the meeting as early as possible and that in all likelihood it would take place in Brussels early next week.
“We invite the European Commission to hold consultations with Russia, the EU and Ukraine without delay. We suggest doing this on Monday, April 28, in order to discuss the critical situation in the Ukrainian energy sector, including the overall state of affairs and financial aspects of the gas debt,” Chizhov said on Thursday, April 24.
EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger reaffirmed the European Commission’s readiness to hold the consultations.
“It’s a matter of their readiness. We suggested holding the meeting today in Bratislava, but the European Commission was obviously not ready. If they need several more days, that’s fine, but we do not advise them to delay it. The venue has not been approved yet. The European Commission will most likely propose Brussels. But if eventually they agree on Moscow, it will be fine with us,” Chizhov said.
“The format and topic of the meeting have changed several times over the past couple of days,” Chizhov said on April 23, adding that two meetings were initially planned to be held in Bratislava one after another: one on reverse gas flows to Ukraine through Slovakia and it was supposed to be held in a trilateral format - European Commission, Ukraine and Slovakia. They would have been joined by Russia for the second meeting planned as a follow-up to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso’s reply to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s letter of April 17, which was published and which instructed Oettinger to begin a dialogue on all energy issues, including future energy supplies through Ukraine and Kiev’s gas debt,” the diplomat said.
Three days ago, Slovak Energy Minister Tomas Malatinsky sent invitations to all parties, including Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak, to come to Bratislava for talks.
“However, the European Commission informed us afterwards that it was not prepared to discuss a broad agenda. So the four-party ministerial meeting with Russia’s participation will be held separately,” Chizhov said.
Oettinger sent a letter to Novak on April 23, stating his intention to convene such a meeting but “did not specify either its place or date”.
Novak, in turn, invited Oettinger to meet in Moscow on April 28 and discuss the Ukrainian gas issue.
The minister is prepared to discuss other proposals concerning the venue and time of the meeting, his spokesperson Olga Golant told ITAR-TASS.
Oettinger has reaffirmed the European Commission’s readiness to conduct multilateral gas talks at the political level.
At present, the gas talks are expected to be held between different expert groups: between Slovak and Ukrainian gas operators and within the Slovakia-Ukraine-EU format, the spokesperson said.
The European Commissioner invited Novak and his Ukrainian counterpart Yuri Prodan to tripartite consultations, Oettinger’s spokesperson said, adding that their date and place had not been specified yet.