BERLIN May 19 The European Union will aim to resolve a row between Russia and Ukraine over gas prices by June 1 with two more rounds of talks planned for next week, Europe's Energy Commissioner said on Monday.
Guenther Oettinger, due to meet Russia's energy minister and the head of Gazprom in Berlin on Monday to set a date for further talks with Kiev on the dispute, said he would try to negotiate a price that lay between the two sides' demands.
"We have a timeframe that ends on June 1. We want to do all we can in two rounds of talks next week to clear up the open questions," Oettinger told Germany's ARD television.
"Next Monday the next round of talks with the EU, Russia and Ukraine are planned," he said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has urged EU leaders to do more to help Ukraine through its economic crisis and resolve the standoff over gas and has threatened to cut exports if Kiev fails to pay in advance for June deliveries.
"We will do all we can to make sure Ukraine can pay what it has missed in the last quarter of a year."
The main problem is price. Ukraine insists on a price of $268.50 per 1,000 cubic metres of gas and Russia standing by its demand for $485.
"We want to negotiate a market price for Ukraine so that it is in a better position than it would be with the demands Mr Putin has been making since April 1," said Oettinger.
"Somewhere in the middle would seem to be a fair result of negotiations," he said.
Ukraine, dependent on Russia for more than half of its gas needs, has refused to pay the price Russia is asking, accusing Moscow of using energy supplies top punish the country for trying to break free from its influence.
Gazprom has stood firm, saying it is sticking to a 2009 contract signed by Kiev and has threatened to cut supplies if Kiev fails to redeem its debt.
Moscow has twice before reduced gas supplies over price disputes which have disrupted gas deliveries to Europe, which takes about half of the gas it imports from Russia via pipelines through Ukraine. (Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Stephen Brown)