The European Union (EU) yesterday weighed in on the row between Gazprom, Russia’s state-controlled energy group, and Belarus over gas exports, warning the two sides against interrupting sales. Russia and Belarus are haggling over terms to end a gas price dispute that could disrupt supplies to Europe.

Gazprom has continuously voiced concerns that a lack of a new gas pricing contract with Belarus could disrupt gas supplies to consumers in Europe. The old contract expires on New Year’s day. On Thursday, the European Commissioner for Energy, Andris Piebalgs, called for an urgent resolution of the negotiations between Russia and Belarus about gas supplies for next year.

The Commission is following the situation very closely since it may affect gas supplies to the European Union. I call the two parts to reach as soon as possible a satisfactory agreement that do not put in question gas transits to the EU. In any case, I will call the Gas Coordination Group to meet on 4th January in Brussels to evaluate the situation, said Commissioner Piebalgs on Friday.

Shortly after a new round of talks began in Moscow, Gazprom said the level of the delegation sent by Belarus was not senior enough for any real progress to be made and it demanded that Minsk send its top negotiator, first deputy prime minister Vladimir Semashko.

In Minsk, a top official of Beltransgas, the national pipeline company, said Semashko would be sent as soon as there was a reply from Gazprom to Belarus’s latest demands.

On Thursday Gazprom said that it would not change it’s stance which calls for Belarus to pay $105 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas from 2007, up from the current $46. It also wants a share of Belarus pipelines.

Georgia, whose Western-leaning leadership has accused Russia of using its energy might to apply political pressure, agreed Friday to pay $235 per 1,000 cubic meters for its Russian gas imports under threat of a gas freeze at the start of the New Year.

Moldova has agreed to pay 6.3 percent more for Russia natural gas, said Mr. Sergie Kupriyanov, Gazprom spokesman, according to the Interfax news agency. Next year Moldova will pay $170 per 1,000 cubic meters, up from the $150 it pays now, he said.

Belarus is a traditional ally of Russia and the two countries signed a treaty in the mid-1990s designed to create a close union, but ties have been strained under Russian President Vladimir Putin, who angered Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko several years ago by suggesting a scenario under which Belarus would become little more than a province of Russia.