ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece will accelerate plans to exploit offshore natural gas deposits, the country’s prime minister said Tuesday, describing a return to reliance on fossil fuels as a temporary necessity due to the disruption caused by the war in Ukraine.

Surveys in six regions in western and southern Greece should be completed by the end of next year, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said.

“The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing international energy crisis have added to the very serious level of uncertainty in all our lives,” he said.

“I would like to emphasize that this new path in no way diverts us from the long-term goals of reducing carbon dioxide emissions.”

Low oil and gas prices in recent years were blamed for stalling gas exploration in Greece’s Ionian Sea and off the coast of the island of Crete.

But the government last week announced plans to increase domestic coal production and expand its natural gas infrastructure to boost its liquefied natural gas capacity with additional storage space at an existing facility and plans to build two more.

The expansion will eventually allow Greece to export gas to its northern neighbors Bulgaria and North Macedonia, which are also heavily reliant on Russian gas.