Blinken Urges Bosnian Lawmakers to Pass Gas Pipeline Law with Croatia

(Reuters) — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has urged Bosnian Croat lawmakers to stop holding up legislation to build a natural gas pipeline with Croatia, seen as an alternative to Russian gas, local media reported on Thursday.

In a letter to Bosnia's Foreign Minister Elvedin Konakovic, dated Jan. 11 and published by news portal, Blinken called on Konakovic to press Dragan Covic, leader of HDZ, the largest Croat party in Bosnia, "to end his obstruction on this matter".

Blinken said that he had sent the same request to Croatia's foreign minister Gordan Grlic-Radman.

Bosnia has no gas reserves but uses natural gas for up to 8% of its energy use. It relies solely on Russian gas supplies which it gets via Serbia through the TurkStream pipeline.

The project to build the South Interconnection Gas Pipeline, bringing natural gas to Bosnia from an LNG terminal on the Croatian island of Krk, was approved two years ago in the lower house of the Bosniak-Croat Federation parliament but has been blocked in the upper house.

The Bosniak-Croat Federation is one of two autonomous regions that make up postwar Bosnia. The other region is the Serb Republic.

The Croat faction in parliament's upper house, or the House of Peoples, has made its approval of the project conditional on the establishment of a new transmission system operator that would be based in the Croat-dominated part of Bosnia despite the existence of such an operator, the BH Gas company, in Sarajevo.

"We urge the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina House of Peoples to pass the law on the Southern interconnection," Blinken said in the letter, which Konakovic's cabinet confirmed it had received.

Blinken said that Covic's demands for the formation of a new operator were "duplicative, economically inviable, and put the entire project at risk. Such obvious corruption and self-dealing could jeopardize Bosnia and Herzegovina's EU path."

"The United States does not support any effort that undermines the Southern Gas Interconnection's potential to deliver energy security," Blinken said in the letter.

No one in the HDZ was immediately available to comment on the letter. 

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