Gas pipeline deal to be signed today

Greece, Italy and Turkey will sign an agreement today on constructing a pipeline to bring natural gas from central Asia to European markets by 2011, the Greek development minister said yesterday. Dimitris Sioufas said he would travel today to Rome to sign the deal, which will also be signed by Turkish and Italian officials. The agreement seals months of negotiations aimed at piping natural gas from the Caucasus to Western Europe through Turkey and Greece. «The project shows the strongly multilateral and extroverted energy policy of our country,» Sioufas said after meeting with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. «It is a work of strategic importance.» The Turkish-Greek link, initially planned to be finished in June, is now expected to begin operating in late August, while construction on the Greek-Italian connector – owned by Italy’s Edison and Greece’s DEPA – is expected to begin next year. The pipeline network would include a 212-kilometer undersea connection from Greece to Italy, and is expected to carry 11.5 billion cubic meters of gas a year into Greece, most of it for re-export. The gas is expected to be of non-Russian origin, after strong US pressure to ensure that Europe get its growing gas imports from multiple suppliers. A visit to Athens by Azeri Economic Development Minister Heydar Babayev this month raised expectations that Azerbaijan could supply much of the project’s supply. A separate project, the South Stream pipeline, would bring Russian gas through Bulgaria to Europe. This marks the latest of several international agreements boosting regional energy cooperation. In March, Greece, Bulgaria and Russia signed an agreement to build an oil pipeline from Bulgaria to Greece to carry Russian crude to the Mediterranean, bypassing Turkey’s congested Bosporus Strait. And last week in Ankara, Sioufas signed a protocol with Turkish Resources Minister Hilmi Guler providing for Greek purchases of electricity from Turkey at peak periods. (AP)

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