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    Vladimir Putin meets with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras

    Greece's Russian Card: Russo-Greek Gas Deal Likely to Infuriate Brussels

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    Ahead of a crucial Eurozone emergency summit in Brussels, which many regard as a potential turning point for Greece, Athens has inked a $2.3 billion deal with Moscow on extending the Turkish Stream pipeline through the Greek territory.

    While experts are expressing their doubts regarding Greece's ability to settle its debts anytime soon, Athens is seeking ways to bring the country back from the brink of economic collapse; the recent move of the Tsipras government aimed at creating the EU gas hub on its territory may provide the country with an unbeatable advantage in the future.

    "It's crunch time for Greece. An emergency summit of Eurozone leaders in Brussels Monday will decide whether the heavily-indebted country, run by a left-wing government that refuses to make concessions that cut deeper into living standards, will be granted another financial reprieve or is headed for default and possible exit from the Eurozone," Moscow-based Christian Science Monitor correspondent Fred Weir noted.

    Alex Tsipras' recent visit to Russia sparked a heated debate among Western experts which suggested that the meeting between the Greek Prime Minister and Russian President Vladimir Putin would be focused on a potential financial aid package to Athens. However, "Mr. Putin emerged from the meeting saying the issue of Russian cash assistance was never even raised," the journalist underscored.

    Nevertheless, Moscow and Athens have concluded a significant and mutually beneficial agreement, Mr. Weir stressed, referring to a memorandum on extending Russia's Turkish Stream gas pipeline through the territory of Greece inked by Greek Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis and his Russian counterpart Alexander Novak in St. Petersburg.

    The deal is evidently playing into the hands of Moscow, which needs "an EU member to become the new "gas hub" for distribution to Europe." Russia's previous South Stream project, which was considered an opportunity to provide gas to Europe avoiding troublesome Ukraine, was suspended last year under the EU pressure.

    Remarkably, some Western media outlets emphasize that the Russo-Greek agreement is likely to infuriate those EU countries which are calling to toughen the European sanctions policy against Moscow.

    However, when the system is completed in 2019, it will "bring hundreds of millions of dollars in gas transit fees to Greek government coffers," the journalist underscored. Furthermore, Athens will own its part of the gas network stretching through its territory.

    According to Gazprom's plan, the Turkish Stream will be divided into four lines, and one of them will supply Turkey. The Turkish Stream's total capacity is expected to amount to 63 billion cubic meters per year.

    Although the deal is unable to solve Greece's current debt crisis, the creation of the EU gas hub on the Greek territory will provide the country with a competitive advantage and a new source of income.

    Whatever the result of the Eurozone emergency summit will be, "the Kremlin is playing a long game with Greece, which doesn't depend on whether the struggling country remains in the Eurozone or not," Mr. Weir stressed.

    Indeed, Greece has long been considered a Russian ally, since the countries share deep cultural and religious ties. At the same time Athens needs Russia as a trade and business partner.

    "Russia couldn't help Greece in its financial negotiations with the Eurozone even if it wanted to. Greece can obtain advantages for itself in energy and other spheres by courting Russia. So why shouldn't it play this card?" said Sergei Zabelin, an expert with the official Institute of European Studies in Moscow, as cited by the journalist.


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    crisis, debt, gas, agreement, Turkish Stream gas pipeline, Gazprom, Alexander Novak, Vladimir Putin, Alexis Tsipras, Panagiotis Lafazanis, Brussels, Moscow, Europe, Greece, Russia
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