U.S. may help Ukraine uprade EU gas links

17:16, 24 July 2008
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A senior U.S. official said on Thursday

The United States is considering putting its weight behind a project to speed the flow of gas across Ukraine to Europe, a senior U.S. official said on Thursday, according to Reuters.

The project could add as much as 19 billion cubic metres of gas flow a year, equal to about two thirds the volume of the planned Nabucco pipline to Europe, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza told Reuters.

"In principle, we`re very interested in doing this, if it`s workable," Bryza said shortly before leaving for Ukrainian capital Kiev to discuss the plan.

"Now we are in the conceptual phase," he added. "We`re just scoping it out... we`ll have to look at feasibility studies and the possibilities of financing."

Ukraine is an important transit state for gas flows to Europe from Russia and Central Asian countries like Turkmenistan.

But regular disputes between Russia and Ukraine have prompted the European Union to seek new sources of energy or supply routes, such as the $12 billion Nabucco project.

Bryza said the work in Ukraine would build on an existing memorandum of understanding between the government there and Germany and Russia.

"A modest investment of around $800 million (could) bypass a bottleneck in the Ukrainian gas transit network into Slovakia," said Bryza.

"From our perspective, we`d want to pursue something like that only if we could make sure international standards of transparency would govern the project," he added. "We could build it from the ground up and therefore build in these transparency initiatives."

Bryza said the project should not be dependent on the survival of any single government.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, swept to power by the 2004 "Orange Revolution", is keen to move closer to the EU and out of the shadow of Russia, but his administration has been beset by quarrels.

"What really does matter is whether the requisite political will will be there to break this really negative cycle of lack of transparency and corruption in the energy sector," said Bryza.

Guardian, Reuters

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