Belarus gas dispute not political: Russian envoy
The Russian ambassador to the European Union insisted Friday that a gas row with Belarus that has threatened supplies to Europe is just a business dispute, not a political conflict with Minsk.
"It's not a gas conflict between Russia and Belarus. It's a price conflict between (Russian state-owned energy firm) Gazprom and the respective Belarussian company," Ambassador Vladimir Chizhov told reporters in Brussels.
He was speaking just as Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko warned he would halt Russia's Europe-bound transit of gas and oil if Moscow does not cover a debt for transit in the next two days.
The four-day conflict had appeared to be close to a resolution on Thursday as Russia resumed gas flows to Belarus and Minsk confirmed Moscow had paid it for transit fees.
Chizhov said Russia was in close contact with the European Union the whole time.
"We were all along in touch with our EU partners, the European Commission. So in that sense I'm satisfied with how the early warning mechanism that was launched between Russia and the EU worked," he said.
"The EU was fully informed," the envoy added.
The Russian government got involved in the dispute only when the two companies were unable to settle their differences, he said.
"Of course it was a purely commercial conflict. The fact that the political leaders of my country got involved into this situation was the result of the inability of Gazprom and Beltrangas to reach a deal on their own," he said.
"And of course the government and the President (Dmitry Medvedev) were conscious of the need to prevent... disruption of supplies to European customers," Chizhov said.
The ambassador added: "We hope that this unfortunate situation will not be repeated."
© 2010 AFP