Updated at 20:54,07-12-2016

Vice premier: Sale of oil pipeline system is a matter of time

The Belarusian government will have to sell the countrys oil pipeline system sooner or later, First Deputy Prime Minister Uladzimir Syamashka said Friday, while accompanying Alyaksandr Lukashenka on his tour of the Minsk region, according to the government`s news agency BelTA.

"Various negotiations are being carried out. Naturally, various scenarios are being considered", said Mr. Syamashka.

The possible sale of the system has not yet been given "serious" consideration, but it is only "a matter of time", said the vice premier, noting that it might be sold to companies other than Russias.

The countrys oil pipeline system does not operate at its full capacity at present, while Russia has built a second trunk line of the Baltic Pipeline System to transport hydrocarbons bypassing Belarus, said Mr. Syamashka. "We should think how to increase the efficiency of the existing facilities", he noted.

The construction of the Baltic Pipeline System-2 was proposed after an oil transit dispute between Russia and Belarus at the beginning of January 2007. The main objective of the pipeline is to protect Russia and its partners from the transit countries`possible decisions to raise tariffs or siphon off oil amid rows.

Experts have predicted that the Belarusian government may sell the countrys oil pipeline system to Russia like the gas pipeline company, Beltranshaz. Some observers believe that Russia needs Belarus` oil pipelines for geopolitical purposes rather than actual commercial benefits. Having gained full control of the oil and gas industry in Belarus, Russia may also use its success as a tool in negotiations with intractable partners such as Ukraine, they say.