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Ukraine, Turkmenistan resolve natural gas row

KIEV, March 26 (RIA Novosti, Olga Bernatskaya) - Ukraine and Turkmenistan have resolved the problem of bilateral settlements for natural gas supplies from the Central Asia republic in 2003-2005 and agreed to hold talks in the near future on supplies in the second half of 2006, the Ukrainian foreign ministry said Sunday.

"The parties reached a consensus during a visit by Ukrainian oil company Naftogaz' delegation to Turkmenistan on March 24-25," the ministry's press service said.

Under a bilateral treaty, Turkmenistan is to ship 40 billion cubic meters of gas at $50 per 1000 cu m in the first half of the year and at $60 per 1000 cu m in the second.

Turkmenistan's foreign ministry earlier said that Ukraine was delaying payment for natural gas shipments and threatened to cut off supplies unless the Ukrainian side cleared the outstanding debt. If that were to happen, it would be the second time a supplier had turned off the taps to Ukraine, as Russian energy giant Gazprom cut supplies on January 1 amid a bitter dispute over prices for natural gas supplies. The spat was settled with an agreement three days later.

Turkmenistan became the principal supplier of natural gas to Ukraine after Kiev signed an agreement with Ashgabat to increase Turkmen gas supplies, buying less from Russia.

According to Turkmenistan, Ukraine's debt stands at $158.9 million and the country's foreign ministry said a failure to settle the debt could place energy cooperation in doubt.

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