MINSK, 11 April (BelTA) – Belarus-Russia relations, including the existing problems the sides are trying to come to terms on, were discussed at the government conference held by Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko on 11 April, BelTA learned from Deputy Prime Minister Igor Petrishenko after the conference.
Among other things the conference touched upon integration and the work of the relevant bilateral group, Russian restrictions on Belarusian food export, adjustments in taxation of the Russian oil industry (the so-called tax maneuver), and negotiations on the gas price Belarus will pay as from 2020. Routine repairs of the oil pipeline used to deliver Russian oil to Belarus were mentioned as well.
Igor Petrishenko said: “The head of state was informed about a number of peculiarities concerning oil transportation across Belarus. The existing oil pipeline, which crosses Belarus, works but needs additional routine maintenance because it has been in use for a long time. Our engineers and technical specialists have made certain conclusions saying the pipeline was supposed to be shut down for scheduled repairs 1.5 years ago.”
Igor Petrishenko explained that at that time they decided to keep the oil pipeline in use in order not to fail their partners. They decided that measures would be taken to fix the pipeline on the go without shutting down certain sections of the pipeline. “Now due to considerations relating to ecology and green economy we see that we cannot perform maintenance on this pipeline without either shutting off certain parts or limiting their use. Our specialists and engineers are working on it. This matter was also on the agenda,” Igor Petrishenko added.
Asked to clarify how much time the necessary repairs may take, the official said that it is up to the engineers and technical specialists in charge of the oil pipeline's maintenance to decide. “Depending on what parts and components need maintenance,” he remarked. “Specialists should arrange consultations so that the oil pipeline would work without damaging the nature in our country and all the contracted deliveries would be implemented,” he said.
The conference also touched upon problems in cooperation in the sphere of energy industry. “The head of state wondered about progress in negotiations on implementing the agreements the two heads of state had reached on negotiating the gas price. This year's prices are fixed. We should begin 2020 with the relevant agreements on price parameters. Groups operating under the aegis of the energy ministries are supposed to prepare proposals by 30 April in line with the decisions made within the framework of the high-level group,” Igor Petrishenko said.
In his words, the implementation of several aspects of the so-called tax maneuver was also mentioned.
Apart from that, participants of the government conference discussed food export to Russia, including fruits and vegetables, and the restrictions imposed on them by the Russian side. “There are problems with getting the single customs territory within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union to work without barriers and restrictions,” the official noted. “We see certain restrictions. This matter was also on the agenda because the problem is discussed both within the framework of bilateral relations and within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union.”
Igor Petrishenko reminded about problems with bone-in beef shipments. Russia has clamped restrictions on these shipments although contracts have been signed and the relevant commodity is stipulated by the bilateral trade balance papers. Supplies of products from countries outside the Eurasian Economic Union are mentioned.
The deputy prime minister said he hopes that a solution would be found for the relevant issues relating to the removal of barriers and restrictions on food shipments.
On the whole, Igor Petrishenko stressed that Belarus' relations with Russia as a strategic ally and a key economic partner are always on the front burner of the government. The head of state was informed about proceedings of the Belarusian-Russian working group in charge of preparing proposals on further integration advancement. “It was once again pointed out that the Union State Foundation Treaty is of great current interest. It is now necessary to make extra effort to fully implement provisions of the program,” Igor Petrishenko said.
“We've discussed all these topical matters. We received a number of instructions from the head of state regarding how we should act within the framework of integration platforms. In this manner we will continue working in order to make our economic interests heard and recognized in all integration formats. Moreover, we've always said that we strongly support integration because we have no other way out since we are an open-economy country. All of it is important for the operation of our enterprises and business,” Igor Petrishenko concluded.