Russia's Gazprom believes the chances are "very good" that it can resolve a conflict with Belarus that threatens to cut some export volumes to Europe, the Russian energy giant's export chief told Reuters.
Gazprom supplies a quarter of Europe's gas needs and sends one-fifth of its total exports to the region -- expected to reach 160 billion cubic metres this year -- through Belarus, while the rest go through Ukraine.
Representatives of the Belarus energy ministry and Gazprom are due to hold talks on Saturday, two days before a deadline set out by Gazprom to Belarus to pay off arrears.
"There is a very good chance that all will be well," Alexander Medvedev said on the sidelines of the St Petersburg Economic Forum on Saturday.
Gas-hungry Poland, which is trying to secure additional volumes from Gazprom, gets some 8 billion cubic metres of Russian gas through Belarus.
Russia has said it will cut 85 percent of gas supplies to Belarus from Monday if its ex-Soviet neighbour fails to pay $192 million in debt to Gazprom, which Minsk denies it owes.
Gazprom said earlier this month that Belarus has been paying $150 per 1,000 cubic metres of gas this year, instead of the $169.20 that Gazprom charged in the first quarter and $184.80 in the second, and could owe more than $500 million by year's end.
Analysts say low gas prices have been crucial to sustaining the regime of President Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus, which the European Union and United States have long shunned, accusing Lukashenko of maintaining power through unfair elections and the suppression of dissent.
There has been discord over plans for a customs union linking Russia with Belarus and Kazakhstan. Negotiations on Belarus' membership stalled as Russia refused to drop export duties on the oil its sells Belarus.
ReutersGüncelleme Tarihi: 19 Haziran 2010, 16:37