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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Moscow reiterates refusal to ratify Energy Charter

MOSCOW, November 22 (RIA Novosti) - Russia will not ratify the Energy Charter as it stands, because it would damage the country's economic interests, the president's top adviser on EU affairs said Wednesday. The European Union has called on Russia to sign the agreement, which would force it to open up its pipelines to European companies and provide safeguards for investors. "Russia will not ratify the [Energy Charter] treaty and protocol in their present form, and the European Union knows this very well," Sergei Yastrzhembsky said. The agreement is set to be a key sticking point at the upcoming EU-Russia summit, which begins Friday in Helsinki. Poland has vetoed EU plans to launch talks at the summit on a new cooperation agreement with Russia, demanding that Moscow first ratify the Energy Charter and end its ban on certain Polish food products. However, Moscow considers the charter to be skewered in favor of energy importers. The presidential adviser said: "We find it unacceptable that energy transit tariffs should be the same for domestic and foreign consumers. We cannot accept the loss of our natural advantage as a transit country with a unique, diversified pipeline system, over which we will effectively lose control if we ratify the treaty and the protocols as they stand now," he said. The Russian foreign minister said earlier Wednesday that Moscow has no intention of ratifying the charter, because it is flawed. Sergei Lavrov said, "The EU side is aware of the document's flaws. The recent meeting of the Energy Charter signatories shows that our position is receiving more understanding." The Energy Charter treaty came into force in 1998 Russia has refused to ratify it over Europe's demands for access to Russian pipelines for Central Asian states and other countries, which Moscow says will make their natural gas 50% cheaper than Russia's when it arrives in Europe.

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