Iran Tabled Rebirth of Nabucco at Meeting with Bulgaria PM, Ambassador Says
Iran put forward a revival of Nabucco project during recent talks with Bulgaria's Prime Minister and other officials, the country's Ambassador to Sofia has said.
Asked by Novinite to confirm reports that emerged earlier this week of a meeting between him and PM Boyko Borisov, H.E. Abdollah Norouzi has explained that a renewal of the now abandoned pipeline project was among the issues he touched during the conversation, "having in mind the idea... about the creation of a gas hub in Bulgaria".
Mr Norouzi, however, stops short of discussing any specific offer of assistance in building the hub, unlike in the story run by the Mehr News Agency this week.
According to him, Borisov was accompanied by a Deputy PM (previous reports cited the name of Tomislav Donchev, who oversees economic policy and EU funding), Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov, and Energy Minister Temenuzhka Petkova. Government officials have not yet commented on the reports.
In the Ambassador's words, "one of the means of diversification of gas supplies [in Europe] is the use of the Nabucco gas pipeline with the partnership of the Islamic Republic of Iran".
Mr Norouzi has argued that if Nabucco is renewed and linked to Iran, its envisaged capacity from 12 billion cubic meters to 70 bcm on a yearly basis.
"Diplomatic relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Bulgaria have a 117-year-long history... Unfortunately, due to the instability of the governments in the past few years we have been unable to make use of this potential for development of bilateral cooperation," Mr Norouzi has added.
"Since the beginning of my term as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the Republic of Bulgaria I have put all my effort and devotion into restoring the wonderful relations the two countries had in the past," the ambassador has added, pointing to "an economic package" with which he says Borisov was made familiar during the meeting.
The package includes several areas of potential cooperation, namely the tourist industry, energy (collaboration in oil and gas, but also in the restoration of "now-defunct or semi-functional refineries"), transport, and agriculture.
The Nabucco pipeline project was first proposed in 2002, with participating countries (who in 2009 signed an intergovernmental agreement) including Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Austria. However, the idea was ditched in 2013 as Azerbaijan, the main gas source for the project, preferred the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline at a certain point, while some European states picked Gazprom's South Stream.
Iran was proposed as a possible source of gas, but international sanctions imposed over its controversially perceived nuclear program made the idea unacceptable.
A recent breakthrough in 5+1 nuclear talks (involving the five permanent UN Security Council members, Germany, and Iran) has pushed Tehran to pin its hopes on a sanctions waiver which could loosen the economic grip on the Islamic Republic.
Iran has the world's second-largest known gas reserves after Russia and has been among the world's top gas producers in the past decades.
The ambassador has concluded that, since the successful result of talks has removed the obstacles to the his country's participation in Nabucco, it wishes to "grant security and diversification of supplies to the dear Bulgarian people and the European Union."
For its part, Bulgaria's government is now seeking alternative gas sources after South Stream was abandoned in December. PM Borisov has repeatedly proposed that a hub be built at the Black Sea coast where gas from Russia, Azerbaijan or another source could be delivered for the rest of Europe. This comes as Russia has reiterated its commitment to the so-called "Turkish Stream" project which will circumvent Bulgaria by delivering gas to Turkey, Greece and, possibly, Macedonia and Serbia.
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