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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Europe’s only realistic choice for importing gas is through Moscow’s planned Turkish Stream pipeline, not a rival conduit, also through Turkey, that’s being promoted by the West.
Lavrov pushed back against U.S. pressure on Greece to choose the American-preferred route, the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP). The Russian official spoke after a meeting in Belgrade with Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic.
“I believe that if the European Union bases its approach [to Turkish Stream] on a critical evaluation of the situation,” Lavrov said, “taking into consideration its own interest in ensuring European energy security, Brussels will support these talks [on Turkish Stream] and contribute to the realization of these ideas.”
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Already, Lavrov said, the initial work may be all but complete because Greece, Hungary, Macedonia, Serbia and other countries in Southeastern Europe have expressed interest in Turkish Stream. The pipeline would run from Russia through Turkey, then through Greece and elsewhere in Southern Europe.
“I believe what matters the most now is to consider practical aspects from the point of view of logistics and from the point of view of funding,” the Russian official said.
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If built, the Turkish Stream pipeline would begin shipping some 63 billion cubic meters of gas annually by December 2016, which Lavrov said would bring “energy security” to Europe. TANAP would bring gas from Azerbaijan – and perhaps even from Turkmenistan on the other side of the Caspian Sea – through Turkey and into Europe.
Lavrov’s comments come after a trip by Amos Hochstein, the US State Department’s special envoy on energy affairs, who was sent to Athens to discuss the options with several Greek officials. Moscow is attempting to sway Greece in favor of its Turkish Stream project.
On May 8 Hochstein reported that both sides “agreed on more than we disagreed,” especially given that work on TANAP already has begun and Turkish Stream remains only a concept in search of a route.
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“Turkish Stream doesn’t exist,” he said. “There is no consortium to build it, there is no agreement to build it. … [I]n the meantime, [we should] focus on what’s important – the pipeline we already agreed to, that Greece already agreed to.”
Turkish Stream would replace the South Stream pipeline project to Europe, which was ended in late 2014 because of a European Union rule that forbids one entity to own both the pipeline and the gas it carries.
That project as well as Turkish Stream and TANAP are potential alternatives to Russia’s current method of shipping fuel from its state-run Gazprom to European customers. The EU now receives about 30 percent of its gas from Russia, and about half of it flows through Ukraine. But because of political and pricing disputes between Kiev and Moscow, the EU has been looking for other sources of fuel.
By Andy Tully of Oilprice.com
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Andy Tully is a veteran news reporter who is now the news editor for Oilprice.com