Pipeline regains Russian interest

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s request for a summit meeting in Athens on September 4 with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and his Bulgarian counterpart Sergei Stanishev seems to have resulted from the strong interest by the Russian oil industry in the realization of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline. The three countries signed a memorandum in April 2005 to build the pipeline, but since March 2006 a series of contacts between Greek and Russian diplomats as well as companies interested in participating in the project have created greater momentum for it. Reliable sources reveal that four weeks ago Moscow submitted a draft interstate agreement for the realization of the pipeline to the Greek and Bulgarian sides. Crucially, the Russian state guarantees for the first time in this draft certain quantities of oil that can secure the viability of the project. This guarantee also requires a similar guarantee to participate by the oil companies, which is key for the pipeline and could be put on paper on September 4. Two visits to Greece by Russia’s Energy Director Anatoli Yanovski, on March 16 and July 6, accelerated the process. In the first one, the Russian official was escorted by representatives of TKN BP, Rosneft and Gasprom. The second visit pushed the issue forward, especially during a dinner with Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, and set up the most important contact on August 8 between the head of TKN BP, the consortium leading the group of companies interested, and a competent government official. On August, 10 and after the head of TKN BP had also met with the Russian government, the Russian president’s visit to Athens was arranged. Another key visit was that of the Russian oil consortium to Turkey in July, during which the construction of a Samsun-Ceyhan pipeline was definitely rejected as too costly. The American side, too, is reportedly being updated on developments, while sources suggest that US firm Chevron has expressed interest in the project.

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