Greece’s decision to take part in the construction of a natural gas pipeline to run under the Black Sea, linking Russia with Europe, will further upgrade the country’s role as an energy hub, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said yesterday. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said in Istanbul late on Monday that Greece will be part of the South Stream pipeline after he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Italian energy company Eni SpA and Russia’s state-controlled OAO Gazprom have signed a memorandum of understanding on the possibility of supplying Russian gas to European Union countries through the South Stream pipeline. Under the plan announced on Saturday, more than 900 kilometers of pipeline could be laid under the sea and across Bulgaria before splitting off into two directions, north through Hungary to reach Austria and south through Greece and on to Otranto, a port near the southeastern tip of Italy. Questioned on concerns by Turkish officials that they are being left out of the region’s energy development, Sioufas said that Greece continues to work closely with the neighboring country on this front. «Besides, you must not forget that we have a close energy cooperation with Turkey that will not be affected by the new plan for the southern stretch announced on Saturday in Rome,» the minister added.