August 2, 2018 / 1:10 PM / 19 days ago

Italian PM Conte to meet mayor Thursday over TAP pipeline dispute

MILAN, Aug 2 (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is due on Thursday to meet the mayor at the centre of a dispute threatening to delay work on the 4.5 billion euro Trans Adriatic Pipeline, the mayor said.

Marco Poti, mayor of Melendugno, a seaside resort in Italy’s heel where the TAP pipeline will land, told Reuters the meeting was planned for 1800 local time (1600 GMT) in Rome.

He said he would reiterate the total incompatibility of the project with the area which is heavily dependent on tourist revenues.

Grassroot opposition to the project has revolved mainly around alleged environment risks and the fear the pipeline could hurt tourism.

TAP, the last leg of the $40 billion Southern Gas Corridor that will bring Azeri gas to Italy, is due to start pumping gas in 2020 but the local opposition has raised concern that work at the Italian end may not be completed in time.

The pipeline is viewed as strategic by the European Union as it moves to wean itself off its dependency on Russian gas.

In July, Italian President Sergio Mattarella confirmed Italy was committed to TAP.

At a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday, Conte said he was aware of the strategic nature of the pipeline, adding he would visit the local community and mayor to seek a solution.

The U.S. administration is keen to see the pipeline completed on time.

The prime minister’s office was not immediately available for a comment.

TAP shareholders are BP, Socar, Snam, Fluxys , Enagas and Axpo. (Reporting by Giancarlo Navach, writing by Stephen Jewkes)

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