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Bulgaria hopes to hook up to Gazprom's TurkStream pipeline

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Sofia (AFP)

Bulgaria announced plans Friday for new gas pipeline that could be hooked up to the giant TurkStream project being built by Russia's Gazprom to pump gas to Europe.

In the hope of persuading TurkStream to pass through Bulgaria, state-owned Bulgartransgaz would build nearly 500 kilometres (310 miles) of pipeline from the Turkish to the Serbian border at a total cost of 2.8 billion leva (1.4 billion euros, $1.6 billion), energy minister Temenuzhka Petkova said.

The new pipeline is part of a new energy strategy approved by the Bulgarian parliament on Friday.

Gazprom has long been seeking to bypass Ukraine in its gas deliveries to Europe.

But EU competition rules forced the Russian gas giant to ditch an earlier South Stream pipeline and it began building TurkStream in May 2017 instead.

With its border to Turkey, Bulgaria is eager to become a transit point to Serbia, Hungary and Austria. It also plans to build a gas trading hub near Varna on the Black Sea.

Gazprom welcomed the Bulgarian announcement, saying on Twitter that it was "closely following the development of the project for broadening the national gas transportation network of Bulgaria."

Depending on Bulgartransgaz's conditions, Gazprom said it would seek to secure capacity in the new pipeline, in an announcement that was hailed by minister Petkova as "very good news".

Bulgaria is the only EU member state to depend almost entirely on Russian gas for its domestic needs, causing both the EU and the United States to urge it to diversify its energy resources.

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