Discussions resume on planned pipeline project

«If you see ministers scurrying, it will be an indication that things are not going well,» said a technocrat in early December, when Greek, Russian and Bulgarian officials took part in yet another effort to finalize the agreement on the planned pipeline between the port of Burgas on the Black Sea to Alexandroupolis on the Aegean. If that view is anything to go by, then yesterday’s meeting in Athens between Greek Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas and his Bulgarian counterpart Assen Gagauzov looks like a bad omen for the project, for which talks started more than 10 years ago. Nevertheless, the two ministers appeared optimistic about an agreement soon. «We are at a good point… the last stage before the signing,» they insisted. Gagauzov is due for talks in Moscow tomorrow. «The project is very important, not just for the three countries, but for the entire European Union,» Gagauzov said. «The remaining differences between Bulgaria and Russia will be resolved in a spirit of understanding so that we may proceed to an agreement,» Sioufas said. The two countries continue to differ on the ownership status of the installations at Burgas. Nevertheless, the implementation of the project will depend on when the international company for construction and management of the pipeline will be set up. This in turn will require the resolution of serious issues, particularly the entry into the consortium of Russian oil companies active in Kazakhstan, which Moscow is pressing for.

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