Samaras looks to play energy card, nudges Ankara

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Monday sought to present Greece as a potential regional energy hub, insisting that Athens was keen to settle its differences with Ankara so it could begin prospecting for oil and gas in the Aegean.

Addressing the Athens Energy Forum, a two-day conference organized by Kathimerini and the International Herald Tribune, Samaras said that Greece was intent on locating and exploiting its mineral reserves to diversify the country’s energy supply, and that of Europe as a whole, as well as boosting its geopolitical position.

Greece is determined to exploit its position “on the new energy maps that are being drawn up in close cooperation with our partners… seeking all potential alliances and fruitful synergies,” he said.

Speaking just a few days before a scheduled visit to Turkey, where he is expected to broach Greece’s intentions to search for mineral reserves, Samaras sought to send a message to his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accusing Ankara of invoking international law to defend its rights without having committed to it. “As a country, we are referring to international law, which we have signed, but Turkey refers to it without having signed,” Samaras said referring to the Law of the Sea, which has not been ratified by Ankara.

Samaras’s comments came a few days after Athens contacted the United Nations to complain that Turkey had been issuing permits for hydrocarbon exploration in areas that also covered the Greek continental shelf. “We want to settle peacefully and on friendly terms and based on the Law of the Sea our differences with Turkey over the possible discovery of hydrocarbons in the Aegean,” the premier said.

Last week French President Francois Hollande, during a lightning visit to the Greek capital, expressed France’s interest in working with Greece to exploit hydrocarbons in the Aegean. A day later, a Turkish corvette entered Greek territorial waters and remained there for several hours.

Earlier this month, Greek, Italian and Albanian government officials signed an agreement for the construction of a Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) to carry Azeri gas to Europe.

Government sources indicated yesterday that Samaras is keen to take bold initiatives on the level of foreign policy and potential foreign investment, while problems persist on the domestic level with protesting farmers refusing to withdraw from roadside blockades and opposition parties continuing to vehemently oppose plans to privatize state assets.

Tonight Samaras will face the leader of the main opposition party SYRIZA, Alexis Tsipras, in Parliament for a debate about the problems faced by the country’s farmers and the concessions they are demanding. According to sources, Samaras is keen to challenge Tsipras, who called for the debate, on his position on the farmers and on other controversial issues including privatizations.

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