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Politics

Pyatt: Greece Prepared Early for European Move away from Russian Natural Gas Imports

ATHENS – The steps Greece has taken to become independent of Russian natural gas have placed it ahead of other European countries, outgoing US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt said at a press briefing in Thessaloniki on Tuesday.

In his last official visit to Thessaloniki before completing his tenure in Greece, Pyatt said it would have been particularly useful for some of the larger European countries to have planned over the last decade as Greece did not to rely on Russian natural gas import. Reviewing Greece’s steps, he said the country now has the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, the Revythoussa terminal off Attica, and is nearing completion of the IGB interconnector with Bulgaria and the floating storage and regasification unit (FSRU) in Alexandroupolis.

“The LNG (liquefied natural gas) market is global. The gas will go wherever the market sends it,” he noted, and “from this viewpoint, our interest in Greece is not primarily commercial.” As the world’s largest LNG exporter, the United States has a strong tradition in collaborating with corresponding companies in Greece and supports both “the absolutely right agenda” of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in energy transition focusing on natural gas, and Europe to become energy independent of Russia.

Large segments of the European economy in which the industrial model is centered on natural gas imports from Russia – including Bulgaria and the Western Balkan states – “are now realizing a lot more clearly after February 24 that they do not want Russia to be their sole supplier,” he said, referring to the day Russia invaded Ukraine.

In terms of energy projects in northern Greece, the American ambassador said they are important for the entire region, not just Greece, but he also expressed concern that the slow privatization process through the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) might lead to investors losing interest.

Ukraine

Asked to comment on developments in Ukraine (where he served as US ambassador in 2013-2016), Pyatt said, “I have no idea where this will all end up. But I know it will end up in [Russian leader] Vladimir Putin’s defeat, and that Russia will be a lot weaker because of Putin’s choices,” but Ukraine will be more united and devoted to its European process. He also referred to the civilian deaths in Mariupol, which he called “crimes of war over a man’s imperialist vision that comes out of the 18th or 19th century, not where we are now.”

Asked to comment what he will miss most from Greece, he said the Greek light, the many and beautiful places, and the good food of Thessaloniki.

Pyatt, the longest-serving US ambassador to Greece, was appointed to Athens in September 2016 and is leaving the post in less than a month. He has been the American ambassador with the most visits to Alexandroupolis during his tenure.

While in Thessaloniki, Pyatt also met separately with Deputy Interior Minister for Macedonia-Thrace Minister Stavros Kalafatis and Thessaloniki Mayor Konstantinos Zervas.

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