Russia has won backing from Greece and Bulgaria for an oil pipeline project to link all three countries. Vladimir Putin met Greek and Bulgarian leaders to discuss the project during a visit to Athens. Proposals for the 175-mile (280km) pipeline have been under negotiation for the past 14 years.
Pressure to adopt alternative routes and political disputes have delayed the project, which would cement Russia’s status as Europe’s key energy supplier. The declaration paves the way for the next step in the pipeline’s progress, an intergovernmental agreement, that should take place before the end of 2006. The pipeline’s route would bypass Turkey and reduce the number of oil tankers that need to pass through the congested and narrow Bosphorus Straits.
Oil would be shipped from Russia across the Black Sea to Bulgaria, and then pumped via the pipeline to a port in Northern Greece. The new route would give Russian oil exports a direct path to the Mediterranean Sea for the first time. Other options for avoiding the Bosphorus have been suggested, including a US-backed scheme to ship oil through Albania.