* Iranian gas could provide alternative to Russian supplies
* Commission says interested in cooperating in all kinds of
* Higher level visits would follow
BRUSSELS, Jan 17 The European Commission will
undertake a first "technical assessment mission" in February to
explore energy ties with Iran following the lifting of
international sanctions, European Climate and Energy
Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete said on Sunday.
Late on Saturday, the European Union, the United Nations and
the United States lifted sanctions on Iran, opening the door to
closer EU-Iran energy cooperation.
The EU executive is particularly keen to develop Iranian
supplies as an alternative to Russia, whose powerful role as a
source of around a third of EU oil and gas has divided the bloc.
"A first technical assessment mission in the field of energy
to the country (Iran) will take place at the beginning of
February," Arias Canete said in a statement.
An EU official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said
around 15 EU officials would go on the initial four-day
technical visit and after that, high-level Commission staff,
possibly with a business delegation, would travel to Iran.
Arias Canete said potential areas for cooperation included
all areas of energy -- nuclear, oil, gas, renewable energy and
In particular, he mentioned developing liquefied natural gas
and also pipeline shipments through a route the European Union
refers to as the "Southern Gas Corridor" to carry supplies into
southern Europe as an alternative to Russian gas.
Since Moscow's seizure of Ukraine's Crimea region in 2014,
EU tensions over reliance on Russian energy have escalated.
German firms have joined a project to double the amount of
Russian gas shipped directly to Germany, bypassing Urkaine,
drawing fierce opposition from nations such as Poland.
(Reporting by Barbara Lewis; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)