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Ukraine, Russia ready for long-term gas contracts
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Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and her Russian counterpart Viktor Zubkov on Monday expressed the two countries' readiness to sign long-term gas contracts and pledged to enhance bilateral economic and trade cooperation.

At the height of a dispute over Ukraine's gas debts in early March, Russia's state energy company Gazprom briefly cut supplies to Ukraine, threatening deliveries to the European Union.

"We have sent the last payment, which completely settles the accumulated debt for Russia's natural gas. Now, Ukraine has completely accounted for its obligations," Tymoshenko told reporters after a meeting with Zubkov.

Zubkov, who is here on a one-day visit, said settling the debts opened the door for talks on long-term supply contracts. But neither side specified the amount of the debts.

Under a deal signed earlier this month, Gazprom agreed to sell Ukrainian state energy firm Naftogaz 50 billion cubic meters of gas at 179.5 U.S. dollars per 1,000 cubic meters this year.

On broader economic cooperation, Tymoshenko said the two countries "will cooperate in ten priority directions," which includes introducing WTO norms to bilateral trade, signing a long-term agreement on gas supply, cooperating in nuclear energy and aircraft manufacturing.

The priority areas for cooperation were set in an agreement signed during a session of the Ukrainian-Russian intergovernmental committee on economic cooperation, chaired by the prime ministers.

Russia and Ukraine should strengthen economic and trade cooperation despite some unresolved issues, Zubkov said.

There is still "great potential to explore" in bilateral trade, while the trade volume reached 30 billion dollars last year, he said.

(Xinhua News Agency April 29, 2008)

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