Don't throw flames on Russia-Belarus oil talks

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Post's editorial assessment of the oil trade negotiations between Russia and Belarus ["A seasonal chill," Jan. 11] was based on an unwillingness to follow daily news as well as a reliance on false premises and outdated stereotypes.

The so-called "dispute" between Russia and Belarus is in reality an ongoing negotiation between supplier and customer. For years, Russia subsidized Belarus by providing deep discounts for oil. This discounted oil was used not only for Belarus's domestic needs, but considerable amounts of it were refined in Belarus and exported to European markets at the real market price.

Belarus has and continues to be an important economic partner, and we value our relationship with this country. The best sign of our commitment to this partnership is that we are still ready to supply oil to Belarus for domestic consumption at a discount. But Belarus continues to insist on maintaining old pricing structures despite the fact that they no longer make economic sense.

As any entity would do in a changing business climate, we are reevaluating the terms of the agreement that expired Dec. 31. We seek to honor our commitment to Belarus while continuing to serve as a reliable energy supplier to Europe. The Post's ill-considered, politically inflammatory commentary serves only to make it more difficult for responsible parties to resolve the issue.

Dmitry Peskov, Moscow

The writer is deputy chief of staff and press secretary to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

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