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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gazprom CEO Holds Greek Talks

ATHENS, Greece -- Gazprom agreed Wednesday to negotiate a 24-year extension of its current contract to supply Greece with natural gas, heralding a potential deal that would solidify Russia's long-term foothold in the Greek energy market.

Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller and Greek Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said that the two governments aimed to complete the deal, which would extend the present arrangement until 2040, by year's end.

After their meeting, Miller underscored the two countries' collaboration in the sector and his company's long-term reliability as a supplier to the expanding Greek market. "Gazprom has fulfilled its contractual obligations completely and in timely fashion ... I want to ensure all that Gazprom will continue working in the Greek market as a reliable supplier," he said.

Greece has imported natural gas for a decade, 80 percent of it from Russia via a pipeline through Bulgaria. It also plans to begin piping in gas from the Caucasus via Turkey by mid-year, a system which will later extend to Italy.

Sioufas said the expansion of natural gas usage since 1996 "represents an impressive rhythm of growth" for Greece.

"It creates the basis for new constructive collaboration and continuity ... between Russia and Greece and Gazprom and Greece," he said.

Greek domestic gas consumption rose by 35 percent between 2003 and 2006, he said, and will double between now and 2010 to 6.5 billion cubic meters on higher industrial and consumer demand and ambitious plans for new gas-fired electrical power plants. Greece's gas and electricity markets are slated for partial liberalization this year.

Miller also underscored Gazprom's growing collaboration in the Greek energy sector via the planned Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline, by which Russian oil will be piped via Bulgaria to the Mediterranean when completed in 2010, bypassing the Bosporus Straits. Russia, through Gazprom and two other firms, has a majority stake in that deal, which the leaders of Greece, Russia, and Bulgaria signed last month in Athens.