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EU top negotiator to seek Russia gas price truce over summer

European Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger told Reuters further progress would take time

MOSCOW, June 18. /ITAR-TASS/. The European Union's top negotiator in the gas price row between Russia and Ukraine is working to bring the two sides together again before mid-July, but said a weekend of bloodshed in Ukraine had made the task much harder, Reuters reported late Tuesday.

Russia's gas supply monopoly Gazprom turned off gas supplies to Ukraine on Monday after the latest round of talks between the European Commission, Kiev and Moscow broke down in the early hours of Monday.

The talks are bound up with the worst crisis between Russia and Ukraine since the Soviet Union collapsed - a crisis that has brought Western sanctions on Moscow, Crimea's accession to Russia and Cold War-style sabre-rattling along the borders.

European Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger told Reuters further progress would take time and gave himself the summer months, when gas in storage is plentiful and demand is low, to find a solution.

"No doubt we are in a sensitive situation. We are in June, so it is not really urgent today, but it is my concern and my ambition to use the summer time (to solve this crisis)," he said.

No one could afford to wait, he said, for the years it could take for a resolution of international arbitration in Stockholm, where Ukraine and Russia are suing each other for the billions of dollars they both say they are owed.

Instead, he said he would talk to Ukraine in the coming days to try to arrange bilateral talks next week.

After that, he planned to talk to Russia, with a view to arranging another round of three-party talks before mid-July.

Referring to the breakdown of the latest talks, Oettinger said the whole weekend was difficult and the political environment tense. 

Kiev and Moscow blamed each other for the failure to agree on the price of future gas deliveries and refused to abandon well established positions: Russia offering a discount and Ukraine rejecting that as a tool for political manipulation.