Energy on Russian agenda

Growing energy ties binding Greece and Russia are expected to top the agenda of talks between Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Russian President Vladimir Putin next week when the Greek leader visits Moscow. Tuesday’s visit will also be among Putin’s last meetings as president as he prepares to hand over his position to Dmitry Medvedev on May 7. «The two countries support with their policies peace and stability in the Balkans and in the broader Southeast European area,» Karamanlis said in an interview with Russian news agency Itar-Tass yesterday. «We have mutual interests in the area of growth and prosperity and similar views on many international issues,» added Karamanlis, who also described Putin as being a friend of Greece and a great European leader. Ties between Greece and Russia have become stronger recently as the two nations share political views on a number of issues, such as Kosovo. Joint steps in Europe’s energy map, involving natural gas and petrol projects, have also resulted in frequent visits being made by Karamanlis and Putin to each other’s country. The latest venture is the South Stream pipeline, which will take 30 billion cubic meters of Russian gas a year to Southern Europe, with Greece becoming a transit state on the southern arm of the pipeline. Development Ministry officials have been busy working on the final details of the South Stream agreement with their Russian peers so that the two leaders can sign the deal on Tuesday. The project is seen as a competitor to the EU, US-backed Nabucco pipeline. According to sources, Russia businesses are also eyeing stakes in Greek energy companies. A 950-million-euro Russian-Bulgarian-Greek oil pipeline, agreed upon last year after 14 years of negotiations, is also moving ahead and expected to enter its construction phase soon. Karamanlis is also scheduled to meet with Medvedev during his one-day visit.

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