SOFIA (AFP) – Companies from Greece, Bulgaria and Russia have agreed to form a joint venture to build a pipeline that will take Russian oil from the Bulgarian Black Sea port of Burgas to Alexandroupolis in the Aegean Sea, Bulgaria’s Regional Development Ministry said yesterday. «The companies interested in the project signed a memorandum to discuss within the next six months their stakes in a joint-venture International Project Company to build the pipeline,» the ministry’s Kalin Rogachev said. «During that time other partners are also more than welcome to join,» Rogachev added. Four Russian companies – TNK-British Petroleum, Stroytransgas, Sovcomflot and Tatneft – will join the project. Three others – Sibneft, Surgutneftegas, and Rosneft – are still discussing their financial engagement in the deal, Russian Deputy Minister of Fuel and Energy Anatoli Yanovski said yesterday. The three Greek candidates for participation – Hellenic Petroleum, the Latsis Group, and Prometheus Gas – have already formed a consortium called DEP-Thraki, Greek Deputy Minister of Development Giorgos Salagoudis said. Two more consortia – Universal Terminal Burgas and Transbalkan Pipeline Company – will join the deal on the Bulgarian side. Greece, Bulgaria and Russia in April signed the political accord for the 700-million-euro deal to build a 285-kilometer pipeline. It will allow Russian oil from the Caspian Sea to be transported from the port of Novorossiysk on the Black Sea by tanker to Burgas and to reach Alexandroupolis through the overland pipeline. «If everything goes according to plan I think we will have the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline in operation by the end of 2008,» Salagoudis said yesterday. The decade-old Burgas-Alexandroupolis project is in competition with another pipeline project joining Bulgaria’s Black Sea port via the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia with Albania’s Adriatic coast, which is backed by the US consortium AMBO. That 912km pipeline would cost 1.2 billion dollars and have a capacity of 35 million tons of oil per year.