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Greece’s new SYRIZA government has shown an interest in the Gazprom-backed Turkish Stream natural gas pipeline project, said Andrei Maslov, the Russian ambassador to Athens.

“Athens has shown interest in the new project. Greece seeks to become a major player in the gas market of Southern Europe and, in particular, the transit of natural gas to the Balkans and Central Europe.

For this reason, Turkish Stream may be an interesting geo-strategic project,” Maslov said in an interview to the state-run Rossiyskaya Gazeta to be published this week.

Facing objections from the European Union, Russian President Vladimir Putin in December scrapped its $40 billion South Stream project which would have passed under the Black Sea to Bulgaria and carried up to 63 billion cubic metres of gas annually to Europe.

It is now counting on Turkey and Greece, hoping to construct Turkish Stream with the same capacity to a future hub on the Turkish-Greek border by the end of 2016.

A gas hub on the Greek-Turkish border

Greece could be an equal participant, since the project foresees the creation of a gas hub at the Greek-Turkish border, Maslov said.

However, the ambassador noted that without the Mediterranean country significantly increasing its gas consumption, the realisation of Turkish Stream for Greece largely depends on potential investors and consumers, which, according to Russia, can be major Western European countries and well-known energy companies.

For Greece, the participation of other European countries and energy majors would be beneficial because it provides not only transit benefits, but also the creation of new jobs as well as the construction of infrastructure facilities, Maslov said.

Tsipras to visit Moscow

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will visit Moscow on April 8 after being invited to talks by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Greece’s government has previously said Putin had invited Tsipras to visit Moscow on May 9.

A source at the Greek prime minister’s office told New Europe that Athens asked for the visit to take place in April instead so that Tsipras and Putin will have more time to discuss bilateral issues since on May 9 the Russia president will be busy welcoming world leaders for the Victory Day WWII celebrations.

Asked if moving the Tsipras-Putin meeting to April 8 is also meant to send a signal to Greece’s creditors that Athens has other options as debt negotiations are under way and the Greek premier was due to visit Berlin on March 23, the source referred to Tsipras’ earlier statement, stressing that “Greece does not blackmail and will not be blackmailed”.

The Greek government has just over two weeks, until April 8, before it enters a “critical” situation and cash runs dry in Athens, Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung reported.

Meanwhile, the source at the Greek premier’s office told New Europe that Greece’s important geopolitical position means it cannot ignore Russia.

Greece to ask for easing of Russian counter-sanctions

The top issue on the Greek government’s agenda during Tsipras’ visit to Russia is to try to convince Moscow to ease the counter-sanctions against Greece, especially in agricultural products, the source said. The trip is also an effort to refurbish Greek-Russia relations.

Regarding Turkish Stream, the source said although it is positive for Athens in depends on broader geopolitical decisions also affected by the EU and US and cannot only be decided by Athens and Moscow.

(Used by permission of New Europe)

Source: The National Herald
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