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Ukrainian gas deal 'within reach,' Europe says

Kremlin: Solution in best interest of Ukraine and Europe.

By Daniel J. Graeber

BRUSSELS, Oct. 30 (UPI) -- An agreement meant to settle longstanding gas disputes between Russia and Ukraine is "within reach," the president of the European Commission said Thursday.

Brussels hosted trilateral meetings between Russian, European and Ukrainian officials aimed at resolving gas disputes growing out of geopolitical rows over post-Soviet Ukriane.

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European Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger said before the start of negotiations in Brussels there was a "common ambition" to find an interim solution.

Oettinger said during August talks with Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak an interim price, repayment of unpaid bills and fulfillment of transit obligations must be part of an interim solution.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said during a phone conversation Thursday with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko "that an agreement was within reach on the basis of the proposals put forward by the European Commission."

Russia meets about a quarter of the European gas needs, though most of that runs through the Soviet-era pipeline network in Ukraine. Russian energy company Gazprom in 2006 and 2009 cut gas deliveries through Ukraine because of contractual disputes.

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Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Thursday reaching an agreement was "in the interests of Ukraine, in the interests of Europe's gas supply, especially considering the fact that the winter season is here."

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