Pipeline project gets final touches

Greece, Russia and Bulgaria put the final touches yesterday to a deal to begin work on a long-awaited oil pipeline linking the Black Sea to the Aegean Sea and bypassing Turkey. No immediate details were announced about the cost of the privately funded project, in which a 280-kilometer pipeline will be built between Burgas in Bulgaria and Alexandroupolis in northeastern Greece, but sources put the cost between -700 million and -1 billion. The three sides agreed to formally sign the final agreement in Athens at the beginning of March, apparently overcoming disagreements as to who is responsible for building the pipeline, the ownership of the terminals and transit fees. Russian President Vladimir Putin warned last week he would rethink the plan if an agreement was not reached soon. In Athens, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas described the meeting results in the Bulgarian town of Burgas as «being absolutely positive.» «(The pipeline) consists of a major project, not only for the cooperation of the three countries but for the supply of international markets with Black Sea oil,» he said. The Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline, scheduled for completion by 2011, would initially carry 700,000 barrels of oil per day with capacity set to eventually rise to more than a million barrels per day. The project has been in discussion since the early 1990s but interest in it was renewed due to high oil prices.