Washington’s special envoy for energy met with top Greek ministers in Athens on Friday on the heels of the leftist government’s ongoing talks with Russia’s Putin to clinch a pipeline deal, a prospect viewed with apprehension by the US side.
Greek PM Alexis Tsipras and top ministers traveled to the Kremlin last month to boost bilateral relations with Russia, with the foremost project in mind being the construction of a natgas pipeline carrying Russian gas through Greece to various western markets. Turkey’s Erdogan has already embraced the idea of a Russian-supplied pipeline through Turkey, dubbed the “Turkstream”.
In Athens, US State Department special envoy Amos Hochstein was received by FM Nikos Kotzias, while he also had meetings with Minister of State Nikos Pappas – who is considered as a close aide to Tsipras – as well as Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, the unofficial head of ruling SYRIZA’s far-left wing.
Beyond the pleasantries and “photo-ops” entailed in such meetings, a subsequent press release by the US embassy in Athens stated, in diplomatic but clear language: “the United States is concerned that Greek consideration of an extension of a ‘Turkstream’ pipeline across Greece will not increase energy diversification, may be of concern to EU competition authorities, and is not a long-term solution to Greece’s energy needs.”
The press release added that Hochstein came to reaffirm Washington’s support for “Greek energy diversification”, i.e. don’t only rely on “Mother Russia’s” natural gas. The statemetn referred to the signed TAP pipeline, a Greece-Bulgaria Interconnector (IGB) and expanded LNG use, given that a major facility exists off Piraeus at the Revythoussa site.
“These projects will increase Greek and European Union energy security, reduce Greece’s dependence on a single supplier of gas, increase competition, and reduce prices for consumers. TAP will result in 1.5 billion euros in foreign investment in Greece, generate 10,000 jobs during construction, and provide many millions of euros in revenue annually over 25 years,” the statement added.