EU, Russia voice hope for Ukraine gas transit solution

Moscow (AFP) –


Russia and the European Union on Thursday expressed hope that a solution could be found to allow gas to transit through Ukraine to continue from next year.

Most of Russia's gas destined for Europe passes through Ukraine.

The transit agreement between Kiev and Moscow expires at the end of the year.

With the two countries at loggerheads over Crimea, Ukraine's territory annexed by Russia, and a separatist conflict, Moscow and Kiev have struggled to agree on the deal's extension.

But Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak and European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic expressed hope after talks on Thursday that a solution would be found.

"We believe that we won't need a plan B because over the past four years we've always had some issues... and we've always found good, constructive solutions," Sefcovic said in translated comments.

Novak for his part reiterated Moscow's position that Russia stood ready to extend the gas agreement on prior terms.

"Russia has a constructive position. It is ready to continue gas transit through Ukraine and ensure supplies for European consumers," he told reporters.

Russia's Gazprom and Ukraine's Naftogaz are embroiled in a legal dispute in a Swedish court and Novak said that settling it was crucial for the extension of the transit deal.

Novak also said Russia was ready to renew gas supplies to Ukraine that were halted in 2015.

The Russian energy minister added that three-way gas talks involving Kiev would take place no earlier than mid-September, after Ukraine holds parliamentary polls in the summer.

In the past Russia and Ukraine have repeatedly clashed over gas deliveries, with Moscow cutting supplies to Europe.