Just when you thought it would never happen, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has announced that Azerbaijan, Turkey and Europe will soon be tied “organically." The organic matter in question is, of course, natural gas, soon to flow through a new pipeline, per a long-awaited June 26 agreement between Azerbaijan and Turkey.
Europe’s organic dependence on Russia could decrease after some 16 billion cubic meters (bcm) of Azerbaijani gas start to flow each year via the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP), to be completed in 2018. Turkey will be happily siphoning off six billion cubic meters of the gas, while the rest will head further afield, to Europe. The volumes are projected to nearly double by 2023 and further increase to 31 bcm by 2026.
Shah Deniz 2, the second stage of development of a massive gas field off Azerbaijan's Caspian-Sea coast, will provide the bulk of the supplies, but Erdoğan expressed hope that, in future, the gas will come not only from Azerbaijan, but from its across-the-Caspian-Sea neighbors in Central Asia.
Speaking of ties, TANAP could further tie Azerbaijan to BP. The British energy giant, which leads the Shah Deniz project, has shown interest in purchasing a stake in the pipeline, co-owned by the states of Azerbaijan and Turkey.
In case you were worrying, rest assured that Caucasus celebrity Matthew Bryza, the never-confirmed former US ambassador to Azerbaijan, has, according to Azerbaijani media, "found a new job." Or, as one news outlet from Azerbaijani enemy Armenia, put it: "The Azerbaijanis found a job for Bryza.”
Bryza, a household name for everyone in (or with an interest in) the Caucasus, left Baku in 2011 after the US Senate, with active prodding from Armenian Diaspora lobbyists, failed to uphold his appointment as US ambassador to Azerbaijan.
In opposing Bryza's appointment to Baku, Diaspora lobbyists took strong issue with what they claimed was his bias in Azerbaijan's favor -- a charge he hotly denied. Bryza, as a deputy advisor to the president and secretary of state on Caspian-Basin energy policy and, later, as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, played a key role in pushing forward an Azerbaijan-Europe energy corridor that bypasses Russia.
To many anti-Bryza-ites, the Turcas Petrol board post will only appear confirmation that the career diplomat truly was one of Baku's best buddies.
After all the haggling that has kept gas-thirsty Europe on tenterhooks, Baku and Ankara finally made an agreement this week on the transportation of Azerbaijani gas to Turkey, and further afield to Europe. If all goes as planned, once 2017 hits, Europe will be able to tap into as much as 10 billion cubic meters per year of the much-wanted, non-Russian gas, news agencies report. As middle man, Turkey itself will receive 6 bcm per year.
The news may come as a smelling salt for the long-delayed Nabucco gas transit project and its rival proposals, but most news reports overlooked one small detail.
Both Turkey and Azerbaijan's energy ministers will revise the agreement's details -- a process that "should not take more than a year," Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told reporters, one Azerbaijani news site reported,echoing a report in Turkey's Hürriyet Daily News. Details were not provided, but, as the past has shown, both Turkey and Azerbaijan can revise with the best of 'em when it comes to energy agreements. Arguably, the EU and US appear more impatient about calling it a day.
Is that zombie of energy politics, the Nabucco gas pipeline, coming back to life once again? Of course, for every "Nabucco's comes back to life" story there's the corresponding "final nail in Nabucco's coffin" story, but a recent agreement to be signed in Turkey offers some hope for the pipeline's boosters. From a report in New Europe:
Turkey gave a boost to the ambitious Nabucco gas pipeline project, which aims to pump Caspian or Middle Eastern gas to Europe, ahead of upcoming elections by planning an official signing ceremony in Kayseri on 8 June of Project Support Agreements (PSAs) between the Nabucco Companies and the responsible Ministries of the five transit countries (Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Turkey).
This message was long overdue, Peter Poptchev, Ambassador at Large for Energy Security and Nabucco Coordinator for Bulgaria, told New Europe on 3 June in the sidelines of the South East Europe Energy Dialogue in Thessaloniki, organized by the Institute of Energy for South-East Europe (IENE). “The meeting of the parties to the Nabucco intergovernmental agreement in the Turkish city of Kayseri will be a strong political message to the outer world that Nabucco is up and running, it is developing, it is considering very important new options. It’s a strong political message. We have needed such a message for a long time. Now it has come,” Poptchev said.
In a sign that Baku is still busy haggling over Nabucco, Azerbaijan’s state energy behemoth on Wednesday announced that the gas transit project is not the only fish in Azerbaijan's gas-rich Caspian Sea waters. This comes just on the eve of the June 6 signing of a memorandum on the pipeline project by energy companies from Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Germany and Austria.
In its Nabucco comments, Azerbaijan has switched regularly from the laudatory to the indifferent, an apparent reflection of the turns in its epic bargaining with project promoters and participants. It remains to be seen if this latest change in mood will somehow give Baku greater leverage.
Turkish Energy and Natural Resources Minister Taner Yildiz earlier this week underlined that the pipeline participants have a Plan B if Azerbaijan gets cold feet -- namely, Turkmenstan, Iraq and Iran.