BELGRADE, Serbia, July 16 (UPI) -- The Russian-backed South Stream gas pipeline to southeastern Europe is a priority for Serbia based on secure gas commitments, corporate officials said.
Gazprom and its Serbian counterpart, Srbijagas, agreed on the terms of a joint venture for export design, construction and operational components of the project at a regional gas conference in May.
Planners expect South Stream to bring 1.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas from Central Asia each year to southern Europe through the Balkans.
Dusan Bajatovic, the head of Srbijagas, said that while he would consider rival options, notably Europe's Nabucco project, South Stream was the main priority, RIA Novosti reports, citing Serbian-language news outlets.
"Serbia's priority now is the construction of South Stream, which, unlike Nabucco, has reliable gas sources," said Bajatovic.
Europe is looking to diversify its energy transit networks in a move to break a dependent relationship on Russian gas. Europe sees Nabucco, a pipeline from the Caspian region, as the answer to its energy security initiatives. Russia, for its part, is advocating South Stream and its Nord Stream counterpart.
Regional partners to Nabucco met in Ankara on Monday to sign a milestone agreement on the project, though it faces financial hurdles and lacks firm commitments from potential gas suppliers. South Stream, meanwhile, has a relatively firm supply base.