* Commission has attended previous EU-Russia dialogue
* No date yet announced for more three-way talks involving
* European industry calls on all sides to respect contracts
By Barbara Lewis
BRUSSELS, May 14 European Commission officials
stayed away from talks bringing together the Russian and EU gas
industry on Wednesday and no date has been set for a new round
of three-way political dialogue aimed at solving energy aspects
of the Ukraine crisis.
Russian gas exporter Gazprom on Tuesday demanded
pre-payment from Ukraine for June gas deliveries by June 2 or
said it would cut off its supplies because of an outstanding
bill for some $3.5 billion.
A first round of talks on energy security on May 2, bringing
together European Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger and
Ukraine's and Russia's energy ministers, was meant to be
followed by further talks in mid-May.
The Commission, the EU executive, said on Wednesday that no
date for new ministerial talks had been agreed.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said on
Tuesday that expert-level talks between the three sides had been
held on Monday and the EU was trying to organise a new
ministerial meeting. He voiced hope there could be an agreement
of the gas dispute before the end of May.
Referring to Wednesday's EU-Russia industry dialogue in
Brussels, an official, who asked not to be named, said there was
no explicit refusal by the Commission to participate, but
Oettinger had "a very tight agenda".
Oettinger has attended previous rounds of the EU-Russia
dialogue organised by Eurogas, which represents the European gas
Eurogas President Jean-Francois Cirelli said only: "What we
are saying in terms of Eurogas is that dialogue is very
From the Russian energy ministry, Alexander Abramov, an
official who is involved in dialogue with the European Union,
said the price of gas was the major sticking point in the
"Our relationship with the EU is going through an ordeal,"
he said through an interpreter.
Ukraine is a transit state for about half of the gas Russia
delivers to the European Union, meaning there is a risk of
disruption if Moscow cuts off supplies to Kiev. The EU relies on
Gazprom for roughly one third of its gas imports.
Cirelli said he believed Gazprom would honour its contracts
to European customers.
"Quite simply there is an obligation from the Russian side
to supply Europe and there are obligations from the Ukraine side
to allow transit. It is paid for that. What we are asking from
the European gas companies' point of view is just respect that
obligation," he said.
One of the options for improving supply security for Ukraine
is via reverse flow, which the Commission has been promoting to
help maximise available gas supplies by shipping it in both
directions, including back to Ukraine if necessary.
Cirelli, who is also vice-chairman of French gas company GDF
Suez SA, said he would agree to sell gas via reverse
flow: "If we agreed on commercial terms and it is in our
interest to do so."
(Editing by Jason Neely)