Belarus says ready for compromise over customs union

MINSK (Reuters) - Belarus is ready to compromise to be able to join a Russia-dominated customs union, state media quoted President Alexander Lukashenko as saying on Tuesday.

Last week, Russia and Kazakhstan agreed to launch the union on July 1 without Belarus. The new trading bloc is expected to boost Moscow's influence in the region but could complicate World Trade Organization membership talks.

"All we want is that everything is done decently and that our relations are based on equality and respect," Lukashenko was quoted as saying at a meeting with Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov.

"If we see that happening, we will make whatever needed compromise, concessions, even if they result in a period of harder times for us."

Negotiations with Belarus have stalled as Russia refused to abolish export duties on the oil it sells to Minsk, something analysts see as a key reason for Belarus to join the pact.

Lukashenko made his remarks days after his government said it would not back down on energy prices. [ID:nLDE64S08R]. He did not say if Minsk had changed its position on the energy prices.

Oil price disputes between Moscow and Minsk have previously led to the disruption of Russian oil flows across Belarus to Germany and Poland.

Belarus has offered to sell control of its major energy assets to Russian firms, but Moscow does not believe this alone would resolve the energy price dispute.

(Reporting in Minsk by Andrei Makhovsky; Writing in Moscow by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Maria Golovnina)


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