Ahead of gas privatization, US urges Greece to have ‘diverse’ energy supply

The US State Department has encouraged Greece to main a diverse energy supply as it prepares to privatize its natural gas company, DEPA, and gas network operator, DESFA.

In response to a question about alleged US concerns about the firms being bought by Russian interests, spokesperson Victoria Nuland stressed that ultimately Greece must decide which offer to accept but that it should be careful not to back itself into a corner.

“It’s obviously a sovereign decision for Greece, as it would be for any country around the world, what kinds of energy arrangements it wants to make on a commercial basis,” she told journalists at a briefing on Tuesday.

“In the case of Greece, they’ve obviously got to abide by their own domestic laws, and they’ve got to abide by EU regulations. What we do counsel countries everywhere is to have diverse sources of supply for their national energy needs so that they can’t be held hostage.”

In response to whether this comment reflected specific concern about a Russian presence in the Greek energy market, Nuland said: “It’s a general comment with regard to our policy anywhere in the world.”

Russian company Gazprom is one of the favorites to land DEPA. Kathimerini understands that during a visit to Athens in December, State Department special envoy Richard Morningstar expressed concern to government officials about Greek gas companies coming under Russian control.

On the issue of general developments in the Mediterranean energy market, Nuland backed Cyprus’s right to explore for oil and gas.

“Obviously we support open and transparent commercial discussions and negotiations,” she said. “As we’ve long said, we support Cyprus’s right to explore for energy in its offshore areas. In that context, of course, we strongly support the Cypriot-led negotiating process conducted under the UN’s good offices to try to reunify the island in a bizonal/bicommunal federation. And we continue to believe that the island’s oil and gas resources, like all of its resources, should be equally shared between the communities in the context of an overall solution.”