GREECE EXPECTS RUSSIAN GAS
Athens expects to agree to take part in a pipeline that would bring Russian gas to Europe via its territory, Greece's energy minister said on Friday, estimating the project would cost 2 billion euros ($2.1 billion).
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras expressed interest in Greece's participation in the pipeline during talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow this week. Putin said no specific agreements were reached and it would be up to Athens to decide.
Thwarted in one attempt to build a gas pipeline to southeast Europe, Russia has now pinned its hopes on Turkey, hoping to construct a "Turkish Stream" pipeline that would help it maintain leverage in its rivalry with the West.
"An agreement (on the pipeline) will most likely be finalised in the coming period," Greek Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis told Greek radio, without elaborating.
He said the project - which would be fully financed, built and operated by private companies - would create some 20,000 jobs.
Currently, the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) is the largest project under way to bring new supplies to European buyers. Cash-strapped Greece is seeking benefits from allowing TAP to cross its territory.
Lafazanis, who represents the far-left flank of Tsipras' government, also confirmed thatRussia was considering giving Greece advance funds for the project based on future profits it could earn from the pipeline's transit. Athens would repay Moscow after 2019, when the pipeline starts operating.
Such a deal would be "a significant fiscal breath for the country", Lafazanis said.
Greece has been locked in talks with its EU and IMF lenders and risks running out of money within weeks unless it submits a credible reform list with specific fiscal impact to secure fresh aid under its 240 billion euro bailouts.
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