In this photo provided by the Greek Prime Minister's Office, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, left, and his Bulgarian counterpart Kiril Petkov, take part in the the inauguration of a gas pipeline in Komotini, Greece, Friday, July 8, 2022. (Dimitris Papamitsos/Greek Prime Minister's Office via AP)
KOMOTINI — The Greek and Bulgarian prime ministers on Friday inaugurated a new energy pipeline that will supply natural gas originating in Azerbaijan to Bulgaria, whose vital supply of Russian gas was cut off in April amid the fallout over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“What we will soon be inaugurating here is not just a pipeline for transporting natural gas but a decisive energy bridge that will unite the geographical south with the north, initially bringing Greece closer with Bulgaria, Athens with Sofia,” Mitsotakis said, adding that the importance of the pipeline for the two countries was indicated by the presence in Komotini on Friday of the Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov.
Petkov, highlighted the pipeline’s role in ending Russia’s gas monopoly in his country.
The operation of the Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB) natural gas pipeline will change the map of the region, giving new impetus to cooperation and ending the Russian monopoly by granting access to different energy sources, Petkov said on Friday, in his speech at the inauguration ceremony for the IGB pipeline in Komotini.
The Energy Minister of Azerbaijan Parviz Shahbazov called the operation of the Greek-Bulgarian IGB natural gas pipeline “historic” at the inauguration ceremony on Friday. He said that the pipeline diversifies energy sources and gives a new dynamic to the pipeline that transfers natural gas from Azerbaijan and supplies the IGB.
In late April, Russia cut off supplies to Bulgaria after officials refused a demand by Moscow to pay gas bills in rubles, Russia’s currency. Relations between the two former Soviet bloc allies have tanked in recent months, and last month Bulgaria ordered the expulsion of 70 Russian diplomats, triggering an angry response from Moscow.
The 182-kilometer (115-mile) pipeline inaugurated Friday will run from the northeastern Greek city of Komotini to Stara Zagora in central Bulgaria with an initial capacity of 3 billion cubic meters of gas, and the prospect of future expansion to 5 million cubic meters. Bulgaria is expected to start taking delivery in the coming weeks.
Greece is looking to serve as an energy hub for the Balkans, using fossil fuels from the Caspian and the southeastern Mediterranean, and, potentially renewable energy from Egypt, to supply the region amid the fallout of the war in Ukraine.
Greece is also building a liquefied natural gas terminal off the northeastern port of Alexandroupolis, near Komotini.
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