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Turkey closer to becoming energy bridge between East-West

Erdoğan and Karamanlis are expected to meet in coming weeks for the inaugration of a pipeline that will carry Azerbaijani natural gas to Europe.

The Turkish and Greek prime ministers are expected to meet soon to inaugurate the connecting of a pipeline of the two countries that will carry Caspian natural gas to Europe - a significant development in building an energy bridge between East and West. Turkey has assumed the role of the region’s energy bridge and energy hub and aims to contribute significantly to the energy security of the West through various ongoing oil and natural gas pipeline projects, as well as ones already completed.

Transportation of energy resources of the Caspian basin and Central Asia to the West through its territories is one of Turkey’s most important priorities. The date for the pipeline’s inauguration has not been fixed yet, but sources said Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Greek counterpart Costas Karamanlis will meet for the ceremony in the “coming weeks.” It will be the first meeting in a long time between the two prime ministers whose parties recently won general elections in their countries, due to unwillingness on Karamanlis’ part. “Thanks to the Turkey-Greece inter-connector, Caspian natural gas shall be directly transported to Europe via Turkey. Following the completion of the Greece-Italy section of the project, natural gas shall be transported to Central Europe,” a high-level diplomatic source told the Turkish Daily News yesterday.

The United States, the EU and other Western countries attach great importance to the project, which will lessen Europe’s dependence on Russian gas. The US and EU support Turkey’s efforts to bring Central Asian resources to Western markets via pipelines. Turkey already completed the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline launched last year. Since then, over 20 million tons of crude oil has been exported to world markets through the pipeline.

Moreover, through cooperation with the US and the EU, concrete projects such as Nabucco and the Transcaspian Natural Gas Pipeline are being considered. Nabucco, a multilateral project, aims at transferring Central Asian gas to Austria via Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey.  Further, the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum (BTE) pipeline built parallel to the BTC pipeline has been transporting Caspian natural gas (Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz) directly to the West since July 3, 2007. The BTE pipeline constitutes the first component of the Transcaspian Natural Gas Pipeline project that will transport Turkmen and Kazakh natural gas to Europe. According to diplomatic sources, through the completion of these projects, around 6 –7% of global oil supply will transit through Turkey.

What about Iranian gas?
But there are also obstacles in Turkey’s ties with the US on energy issues. A recent agreement between Turkey and Iran sparked criticism from the US, questioning Ankara’s contribution to the international community that is trying to convince Tehran to return to the negotiation table on its disputed nuclear program. Prime minister Erdoğan’s willingness to meet with his Greek counterpart in such a situation is seen as a move of balance. “Turkey shall continue to look into ways it can contribute to the energy security of the West and by the same token, promote the existing cooperation in the field of energy with all its partners, particularly the US and the European Union,” a source said without making any reference to Iran-Turkey energy ties. (turkishdailynews)