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By Tsvetelia Tsolova
SOFIA, July 7 All construction timelines for the
South Stream pipeline are on track and the European Union should
restart talks about the project, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei
Lavrov said on a visit to Bulgaria on Monday.
The proposed pipeline to bring Russian gas under the Black
Sea to Europe will make landfall in Bulgaria. It has put
Bulgaria, which relies almost entirely on Russia for its energy
supplies, at the centre of the row between Moscow and the West.
Bulgaria's Socialist government - which will step down
within weeks - strongly backed the pipeline but reluctantly
suspended construction amid threats of punishment from Brussels,
which is concerned the project does not comply with EU rules.
"We are appealing to the European Commission to resume
contact and we hope that the talks can be successful," Lavrov
told a news conference via an interpreter.
"We are convinced that if there is goodwill, every problem
can be solved," he said. "We are counting on the talks with the
European Commission to be unfrozen."
Lavrov also called for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and
expressed concerns about the growing number of civilian deaths
and the destruction of infrastructure in the country.
Bulgaria has sought to allay the EU's concerns about South
Stream. Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski said in a statement
during Lavrov's visit that Bulgaria was optimistic the EU would
accept its arguments that South Stream was above board.
Moscow has accused the European Union of putting pressure on
some of its partners in the $40 billion project, intended to
carry Russian gas to central Europe via the Black Sea, bypassing
Ukraine and reducing the country's importance as a transit
Dozens demonstrated in front of the Bulgarian presidency on
Monday, demanding an end to Bulgaria's energy dependency on
Russia. Another group, led by the nationalist Attack party,
chanted in support of the South Stream pipeline.
A third group, waving Ukrainian national flags and posters
reading "Putin murderer", demanded the release of a Ukrainian
film director, who was arrested on accusations of plotting bomb
attacks in Crimea in May.
Bulgaria, which has historically been close to Russia, gets
almost all its natural gas from Russia's Gazprom, its
ageing nuclear reactors run on Russian nuclear fuel and its only
oil refinery is controlled by Russia's LUKOIL.
(Writing by Matthias Williams; editing by Andrew Roche)