A US State Department special envoy met with Greek authorities in Athens on Friday to discuss energy resources and supply safety issues while seeking Greek support for an American pipeline.
The special envoy for energy affairs, Amos J. Hochstein, urged the Greek officials, Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis and State Minister Nikos Pappas, to pick the Western-backed “Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP)” over the Russian “Turkish Stream,” but did not succeed.
Before the meeting, the State Department envoy Amos J. Hochstein told the New York Times that if Greece were to turn down Russia’s offer to host a pipeline, it would make Greece more appealing to Western investors and reduce the European Union’s dependence on Russian gas supplies.
Gazprom, the Russian state-controlled energy company, is planning to built a natural gas pipeline that would stretch from Russia to Europe via Greece, bypassing Ukraine.
The United States is working on TAP that would transport natural gas from Azerbaijan via Turkey, Greece, Albania and the Adriatic Sea into Europe.
The Russian “Turkish Stream” replaces an earlier project called “South Stream” that would have traveled through Bulgaria but was abandoned because of EU rules that would have required Gazprom to share the pipeline with other suppliers.
Speaking after the meeting, Hochstein said “Turkish Stream doesn’t exist. There is no consortium to build it, no agreement to build it.
“So let’s put that to the side, and wait until there’s some movement on that and see if that’s relevant or not relevant and in the meantime focus on what’s important - the pipeline we already agreed to, that Greece already agreed to.”
However, Lafazanis begged to differ. “We are backing [Turkish Stream] because we think it will be useful to our country,” he said in a statement after the talks.
The Russian president Vladimir Putin and the Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras spoke on the phone on Thursday regarding the pipeline project. It is reported the president mentioned financial support for Greek companies and the prime minister confirmed Greece’s enthusiasm for “Turkish Stream.”
Greece is currently experiencing a dire financial crisis and revenue from a lucrative pipeline deal may not come soon enough.
A statement made on Gazprom’s website quotes its chairman Alexey Miller as telling Russian state media that “Turkish Stream will start in December 2016.”
Holstein later modified his stance, as reported by The Moscow Times.
“There is no reason why Russia should not be a supplier of gas into [Europe] and the US does not challenge that in any way,” he said, and added that having other sources of gas would “help with price, reliability of supply and that will help take the political element out of the supply system.”