SOFIA, June 9 Bulgaria has not given up plans to
build the South Stream pipeline delivering Russian natural gas
to Europe and sees the Gazprom-led project as
irreversible, Energy Minister Dragomir Stoynev said on Monday.
Bulgaria said on Sunday it had halted work on the pipeline
after the European Union and United States expressed concerns
about the project.
Designed to bypass Ukraine, the pipeline has inflamed
tensions between the EU and Russia after Brussels asked Sofia
last week to suspend work pending a decision on whether it
complies with EU law.
Stoynev said in a statement he was certain South Stream
would be built once disputes over how to structure it as a
European project are cleared.
"If we look at the situation strategically and without
emotions, the South Stream project looks irreversible and
important for both Europe and Bulgaria," Stoynev, who is on a
visit to China, said.
"I am convinced that all pending issues will find a
In response to Bulgaria halting work, Kremlin spokesman
Dmitry Peskov was quoted by RIA Novosti news agency on Monday as
saying: "(We) need to check, it is too early to say anything."
Washington has also warned Sofia that picking a consortium
led by sanctions-hit Stroitansgaz to build the Bulgarian section
of the pipeline could result in sanctions on Bulgarian companies
South Stream is being built to pipe 63 billion cubic metres
of gas per year from Russia, beneath the Black Sea, and through
Bulgaria into central and southern Europe.
Bulgaria's Stoynev, a staunch supporter of the project, says
it will boost the country's energy security and economy.
"We really are actively working to close the open issues
with the European Commission, meaning that we have not abandoned
the project," Stoynev said.
State-controlled Gazprom is pushing ahead with the project,
expected to be cost around $45 billion, despite Western
sanctions against Moscow over the Ukraine crisis.
(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; editing by Jason Neely)