How long will Lukashenko play foil to Vladimir Putin? The Associated Press is reporting that the oil spat between Belarus and Russia may be coming to a close:
Russia, Belarus ‘Settle Oil Row’ MINSK, Belarus (AP) — January 10, 2007 – Russia and Belarus have reached a compromise on their dispute that has halted oil flows along a key pipeline to Europe after telephone talks between the two countries’ presidents, the Belarusian presidency said. “In the course of the conversation, a compromise was found which enables us to resolve the current deadlock, including concerning the transit of Russian oil to European countries through the territory of the Republic of Belarus,” the presidency’s press service told The Associated Press. The press service added that Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus had ordered their prime ministers to work out within two days a package of measures to resolve the dispute and submit them for approval by the two leaders on Friday. The Kremlin could not immediately be contacted for comment. On Monday, Russia stopped pumping oil to Europe via the Druzhba, or Friendship, pipeline that crosses Belarus, accusing its neighbor of siphoning off oil. By Tuesday, the stoppage had affected supplies to Ukraine, Germany, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The dispute centers over Russia’s decision to impose a hefty duty on oil exports to Belarus, with Moscow complaining that the previous duty-free regime has been costing the Russian budget up to $4 billion (¬3.1 billion) a year. Minsk, whose isolated regime is tied to Moscow through a loose union treaty and relies on cheap Russian energy and duty-free trade with Russia, hit back by slapping duties on Russian oil pumped across Belarus to Europe.