Greece, Turkey and Italy are reportedly close to signing a three-party interstate agreement for the transmission of Azeri natural gas through the Turkey-Greece-Italy pipeline. The visit to Athens today of Azeri Minister of Economic Development Heydar Babayev and his meeting with Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas are expected to form part of the preparations for the agreement, committing the three countries to the carriage of Azeri gas. Sioufas informed Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday about this issue as well as developments on the planned South Stream natural gas pipeline. After the agreement by Russia, Bulgaria and Italy to transmit Gazprom’s natural gas through the South Stream pipeline from the Black Sea to Italy, the Turkey-Greece-Italy pipeline reverts to its previous plan to carry Azeri gas as an alternative to the Russian network. This is also the preference of the USA and the European Union. Italy’s Edison and Greece’s DEPA, who control the project, have no natural gas of their own, meaning that they must secure it from third parties. Within that context, the CEO of DEPA, Asimakis Papageorgiou, visited Azerbaijan last week to secure quantities from a new reserve, to be available on the market from 2012. The new pipeline will operate as of 2011, and intended to carry 11.5 billion cubic meters of gas per year.