Gas crisis solved as Ukraine signs deal .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:none; color:#000000;} .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink:hover { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:underline; color:#990000;} ISTANBUL - Ukraine yesterday accepted a deal on the EU-led monitoring of Russian gas transiting its territory, opening the way for restarting natural gas supplies to Europe.

Russia, which halted shipments four days earlier, wanted the written deal to renew gas shipments that it suspended amid a bitter contract dispute with Ukraine, the Associated Press reported. The suspension was seen by many as yet another attempt by Moscow to reassert its clout over Western-leaning former Soviet republics.

Russia said it needed European Union monitors deployed to Ukraine to prevent it from stealing Russian gas intended for Europe. Ukraine hotly denied the claims.

Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, shuttled between Moscow and Kiev Saturday to mediate the deal. He finally persuaded Ukraine to accept the monitoring pact during marathon talks which dragged past midnight.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin promised that Moscow will resume gas shipments once the deal is signed and monitors are in place.

Russia supplies about one-quarter of the EU's natural gas, most of it shipped through Ukraine, and the disruption has come during a harsh winter.

Monitors, including representatives of the European Commission, European energy companies and Russian and Ukrainian gas officials, will travel to gas pumping stations on Ukraine's eastern and western borders to track the gas flow. Topolanek said there is no time limit for the observers' mission, and Putin said "the longer they stay, the better it is for us, Ukraine and European consumers."

Turkey also stepped up to end the Russian-Ukranian dispute. Energy Minister Hilmi Güler told the Anatolia News Agency earlier on Saturday Turkey was holding talks with Gazprom and Naftogaz, and the energy ministers of two countries. He said he met Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Korsunsky to Turkey on Thursday, and discussed recent developments and proposals for a settlement. Korsunsky conveyed him a letter signed by the deputy prime minister of Ukraine, head of Naftogaz executive board and European commissioner for energy, which was about Ukraine's demands from Turkey for a settlement, Güler said.

The Russian state natural gas giant Gazprom halted the shipment of gas intended for Ukraine Jan. 1 after negotiations over a new gas contract broke down. Russia then accused Ukraine of siphoning its gas intended for Europe, and finally turned off the taps on all gas shipped through Ukraine on Wednesday, ending or reducing gas supplies to more than a dozen European nations as winter turned bitterly cold across the region.