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...TO STANDARDIZE PRICES, TARIFFS. Yazev said at the October 30 meeting of the Russian Gas Association's board that his proposed IANNGO would seek to coordinate legislation to standardize gas prices and transport tariffs between Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, as well as with "gas associations" in Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Moldova, the daily "Kommersant" reported on October 31. He argued that the proposal should be discussed at the November 20 Gas of Russia 2006 forum in Moscow. Gazprom spokesmen declined to comment on Yazev's proposal, which he first floated in late May in response to unnamed EU "officials' activities," but Russian Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko criticized it. Other Russian officials have suggested forming a "gas alliance" with Iran or an "energy OPEC" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," June 20, 2006). Russia is the world's chief producer of natural gas and the second largest exporter of crude oil, but does not belong to OPEC. It is the G8 member with the largest energy resources (see "RFE/RL Newsline," March 14, June 1 and 6, and August 10, 2006, and "Russia: Energy, Weapons Bring Moscow Closer To Algiers," rferl.org, March 10, 2006). PM
GERMAN LEADER FAILS TO EASE POLISH FEARS ABOUT RUSSIAN ENERGY. Chancellor Merkel and Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski made visible efforts during Kaczynski's October 30 visit to Berlin to address long-standing strains in bilateral relations and project a friendly atmosphere, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on October 31. In response to Polish concerns about Europe's growing dependency on Russian energy supplies, Merkel stressed the importance of setting up a joint European gas market and added that Germany will work toward that goal during its EU chairmanship in the first half of 2007 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," August 24 and October 20 and 24, 2006). She said that the common gas market will provide guarantees for Poland and the Baltic states, which fear that Moscow might use energy supplies as a political weapon against them, as it already has in 2006 against Ukraine and Lithuania. Merkel mentioned that gas supplies from Norway are a particular option in such a case. She nonetheless failed to allay Polish concerns about the proposed Russo-German North European Gas Pipeline (NEGP), which bypasses Poland. Kaczynski has been unwilling to accept her offer to include Poland in the project, because that would do nothing to ease Warsaw's main fear, which is that Europe has already become too dependent on Russia as a source of energy. During the January 2006 Ukrainian gas crisis, Polish leaders called on consumers to form an "energy NATO" to protect their interests. PM
UKRAINIAN PREMIER SUGGESTS PROLONGING DEPLOYMENT OF RUSSIAN FLEET IN CRIMEA... Viktor Yanukovych told journalists in Kyiv on October 30 that the current Ukrainian-Russian agreement on the deployment of Russia's Black Sea Fleet in Crimea until 2017 could be prolonged beyond that year, Interfax-Ukraine reported. Yanukovych denied the allegations that the issue of the Black Sea Fleet was somehow linked to reaching last week's deal on gas deliveries to Ukraine in 2007 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 25, 2006). JM
...AND PREDICTS SENDING WTO-RELATED BILLS TO PARLIAMENT BY MID-DECEMBER. Prime Minister Yanukovych also told journalists in Kyiv on October 30 that the government is planning to submit to parliament by mid-December a dozen bills required for Ukraine's entry to the World Trade Organization (WTO), RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reported. Yanukovych earlier predicted that his cabinet would send the required bills to the Verkhovna Rada by mid-November. Meanwhile, Our Ukraine lawmaker Ksenya Lyapkina said the same day that this year the Verkhovna Rada is unlikely to endorse all of the bills Ukraine needs to pass toward WTO membership. Lyapkina noted that Ukraine's accession to the WTO will be delayed by the government and the ruling coalition, which in her opinion do not want to move quickly on the issue. "This is a political will dictated from outside Ukraine," she added. JM