'Gas Troika' Plans Draft Charter

The Energy Ministry said Friday that the Forum of Gas Exporting Countries will hold its Moscow summit on December 23 and will agree on a draft charter on November 26.

The meeting was originally planned for mid-November but was delayed while the countries made preparations for the forum's charter, the ministry said in a statement.

The new charter will help the largely informal club morph into a more formal organization, which could resemble the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Global No. 1 gas producer and largest reserve-holder Russia held talks with Iran and Qatar, the second- and third-biggest holders of natural gas reserves, last week after they formed a "big gas troika" last month.

The OPEC-style grouping should become a permanent body, holding regular meetings to discuss key developments in the gas markets, and could include other countries later on.

Its formation sent a nervous tremor through the European Union and the United States, which have argued that the market should set gas prices.

Both have repeatedly warned that an OPEC-style gas group could pose a serious danger to global energy. The reserves of Russia, Iran and Qatar boast more than half of the global total.

But Europe's top suppliers argue that the new organization would help better structure long-term gas needs and coordinate capital expenditure programs.