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US mulling gas supply to Belarus via Lithuania: envoy

The United States has said it would be willing to provide Belarus with natural gas via Lithuania’s LNG terminal, as Minsk and Moscow spar over Russian energy supplies.

“I think there is certainly hope for that,” US ambassador to Vilnius Robert Gilchrist said in an interview with the Baltic News Service released on Wednesday.

While admitting the idea was “still fairly fresh”, Gilchrist said the Department of Energy was looking into the possibilities.

“I know that when I was in Washington, there was a strong interest in this, and I had meetings with the Department of Energy on this very issue.”

Lithuanian Energy Minister Zygimantas Vaiciunas said Belarus could buy supplies at Lithuania’s Baltic sea liquified natural gas terminal to reduce Russian dominance.

But some analysts say the Russian state-owned gas giant Gazprom could block the potential deal using its role as Belarus’s sole pipeline operator.

“The major problem is that the Belarusian gas pipeline has been controlled by Gazprom since 2011. It’s much more difficult to find a solution for the gas issue than the oil one,” Vilnius University analyst Laurynas Jonavicius told AFP.

Last month, Belarus began importing oil from Norway via the Lithuanian terminal.

The move came after Russian stopped shipping oil to Belarus as the two countries failed to reach a deal on supplies by a January 1 deadline.

There are increasing signs of a thaw between the West and Belarus, which is deeply dependent on Russian subsidies and loans.

“I think in terms of Belarus, as Lithuania has seen, there is a potential opening for increased dialogue and some movement, and perhaps a slight thaw in relations,” Gilchrist said.