2019-02-06

Greece seeks Turkey's favor over Turkish Stream pipelines to Europe

By www.neftegaz.ru

Greek Prime Minister Tsipras still cherishes hopes that the continuation of the main gas pipeline Turkish stream will pass through the Greek territory. During his official visit to Turkey on February 5-6, 2019,  Alexis Tsipras raised this issue during negotiations with Turkish President Erdoğan. There are few details of the negotiations, but at a press conference following the meeting on February 5, 2019, Tsipras said that Greece would like to participate in the implementation of the Turkish Stream project .

According to Tsipras, energy should become a bridge of cooperation between nations, and not an obstacle, not a reason for clashes in the region. Greece and Turkey are already cooperating in such important energy projects as the Trans Adriatic Pipeline ( TAP ). And Greece would like to expand cooperation with Turkey, in particular, it would like to participate in the Turkish Stream project.

With the construction of mainstream pipeline approaching to completion, Tsipras has been especially active diplomatically. Turkish stream will consist of  2 lines, each with a capacity of  15.75 billion cubic meters per year.  First pipeline was built to satisfy demands of the Turkish market, while second  string is going to supply countries of southern and south-eastern Europe. Russia has not yet officially announced the route for the continuation of the 2nd leg across Europe , trying to prevent a repetition of the situation with the South Stream, which eventually was not built at all.

There are two principal options for extending the 2nd  line of Turkish Stream flow through Europe - through  Greece to Italy or  through Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary to Austria. The first option is much more interesting for Gazprom, who is interested in entering the Italian market, but everything suggests that the Bulgarian-Serbian-Hungarian version will be chosen, as the initial SouthStream project envisioned.

But Tsipras does not give up and still hopes to divert the pipeline to Greece. In December 2018, Tsipras spoke  about the implementation of the  Italian-Greek route for the continuation of the 2nd line of the Turkish Stream with Russian President  Putin. The chill in relations between Russia and Greece, which appeared after Tsipras gave way to the pressure of Western partners, has already passed. Back in 2015, the visit of  Tsipras to Russia and his negotiations with  Putin gave a new impetus to the expansion of  Russian-Greek gas transport relations. But after the western loan, Greece’s relations with Russia became very cold; as a result, in  2016 , the sides failed to sign an agreement on a gas pipeline that would lead Turkish stream to Europe through Greece. In December 2018, Tsipras tried to convince Putin that since then there have been  many  changes and  Greece has found its way.

But these arguments were hardly enough to risk the prospects of Turkish Stream. Objectively speaking, Greece's extension of the Turkish flow through its territory would be a very  desirable  element of the future gas hub. Other large gas transmission projects are already tied to Greece. For example, TAP, which is part of the Southern Gas Corridor ( SGC ), which provides gas supplies to Europe from Azerbaijan and other countries of the Caspian region. Another project is EastMed, which  will supply  gas to Greece and Italy from fields on the shelf of Cyprus and Israel. Moreover, there are LNG terminals,  in particular the  planned  floating LNG terminal ( FSRU ) in  Alexandroupolis in the north-east of Greece.

This infrastructure will enable gas supplies to the countries of the Western Balkans to Greece, which will significantly increase the energy status of Greece. It is unlikely that Tsipras seriously attempted to start a continuation of the 2nd line of the Turkish stream to the territory of Greece at a meeting with Erdogan. From the position of Turkey, the route of the European gas pipeline - doesn't play any role in defining of the pipeline routes.

Most likely, with his statement, Tsipras signaled to the Russian officials that the project is till interesting for Greece. But the proposals of Tsipras were a little bit late. In addition to the vague prospects of the Greek route for the extension of the Turkish Stream, Tsipras and Erdoğan discussed much more specific areas of cooperation.

In particular, a number of important Turkish-Greek agreements were reached like the joint work on the organization by the summer of 2019 of maritime communication between the ports of Izmir in Turkey and Thessaloniki in Greece. Both sides also agreed on the organization of a new business forum that will allow us to show the opportunities opening up for cooperation, especially now that Greece has emerged from the crisis that has tormented it for many years.

Turk about following the principle of peaceful resolution of conflicts complicating relations between 2 countries for many years: enhancing cooperation in the  fight against terrorism, the resolution of the conflict around Northern Cyprus, as well as the development of mineral resources in the Aegean Sea. In particular, there was a hope to resolve the situation with the extraction of hydrocarbons in the Aegean Sea. Disagreements on this issue hamper the  development of gas fields off the coast of  Cyprus. Turkey prevents Greece from extracting minerals in the Aegean Sea until both countries resolve the conflict over the division of the island into the Greek (Republic of Cyprus) and the Turkish part  (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus). During the current negotiations in Turkey, the parties spoke in favor of applying constructive measures to relieve tensions and decided to develop a special action plan for this.

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