PRAGUE (Reuters) - Slovakia and Ukraine will hold talks on Tuesday on the conditions for reversing the flow of natural gas to Ukraine, the Slovak Economy Ministry said on Monday.
The ministry said the meeting, at the gas pumping station of Velke Kapusany on the Ukrainian border, would be attended by Ukrainian and Slovak ministers in charge of energy, a high-ranking representative of the European Commission but not the Russian side which the Slovaks had also been keen to involve in the talks.
"We will be proposing to sign a memorandum (on supplies), it has been prepared from our side, although it is not pre-agreed with the Ukrainian side," ministry spokesman Stanislav Jurikovic said.
Relations between Ukraine and Russia have been in crisis since the ouster of pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovich and Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region.
Russia tore up a discount on its gas negotiated under Yanukovich and this month raised the price Ukraine must pay for gas from Gazprom by 80 percent.
Slovakia is well placed to pump gas to neighbour Ukraine should Russia reduce or shut off supplies from the four pipelines that feed Slovakia via Ukraine.
But it has said it needed to make sure that any solution does not violate the terms of its contracts with Russian supplier Gazprom to avoid sanctions. It also wants guarantees that any gas supplied to Ukraine will be paid for.
Slovak pipeline operator Eustream said it would also take part in the talks on Tuesday alongside its Ukrainian partner, Ukransgaz.
It said the agenda would include talks on an interconnection agreement and concrete conditions of an "open season" process which is used to determine binding expressions of interest to contract gas volumes.
Slovak Economy Minister Tomas Malatinsky said at the weekend technical preparations for reverse flows may be completed in November. He said Eustream would invest the 20 million euros necessary to build a metering station on the border.
A spokesman for Eustream confirmed Slovakia was looking at the possibility of utilising an unused pipeline between the Slovak power station Vojany and a storage site in Uzhorod in Ukraine for reverse flows of gas of up to 9 billion cubic metres per year.
The pipeline needs a short connector built into the main Slovak transit pipeline on the Slovak side of the Velke Kapusany pumping and metering border station.
The short connection is important. In order to respect its contract obligations with Gazprom, Slovakia cannot simply push gas back to Ukraine through the main international pipeline past the main metering station on the border.
But using the altered Vojany pipeline, the gas would be taken from the main international pipeline already on the Slovak territory, after it is contractually handed over to buyers on the Slovak side. Then it would be sent back to Ukraine without violating the contracts, Eustream said.