Socar officials ‘know nothing’ about apparent DESFA interest

A recent claim by Greece’s Ambassador to Azerbaijan supporting that the country’s state-controlled energy company Socar is interested in taking part in an upcoming yet still-unannounced tender to offer a stake of DESFA, Greece’s natural gas grid operator, has been rejected by well-informed energypress sources and the Azerbaijani company itself.

The Greek ambassador in Baku, Dimitris Tsoungas, is said to have surprised officials at Socar, who apparently were informed of the energy company’s alleged interest in the forthcoming DESFA tender through an interview in which the Greek diplomat stated this claim.

DESFA was the winning bidder of a previous long-running DESFA tender offering 66 percent. That sale attempt collapsed in December.

One energypress source explained that the Greek ambassador’s claim may have come as part of an effort to generate a favorable climate ahead of energy minister Giorgos Stathakis’s visit to Baku for today’s 3rd Southern Gas Corridor Advisory Council, where the minister is expected to hold a series of talks with highly ranked European Commission officials, fellow ministers as well as financial institution officials.

Since the collapse of the initial DESFA privatization effort last December, Socar officials have contended that Azerbaijan’s bilateral ties with Greece remain unharmed.

However, the truth of the matter is that the current Greek government’s handling of the procedure, which included the implementation of revenue-limiting measures on DESFA prior to the tender’s eventual collapse, did not go down well in Baku.

Also, leading Greek officials, including Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, have turned down invitations for official visits to Baku over the past couple of years, citing various reasons.

Today’s visit to Baku by the energy minister is the first to be made by a leading Greek government official in quite a while.