First pipeline to provide Europe with non-Russian gas supply
Publication time: 19 November 2007, 19:37
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Greek counterpart, Costas Karamanlis, yesterday inaugurated a pipeline that will transport the first non-Russian supply of natural gas to Europe, a step expected to ease Russia's hold on Europe's energy supplies.
The pipeline is also a symbol of a new era of economic cooperation between archrivals Turkey and Greece. "We are forming a bridge as an energy transit country. ... This pipeline will bring prosperity to the area, in all fields," Prime Minister Erdoğan said at a ceremony on a bridge over the Meriç (Evros in Greek) River that separates the two countries. "The Silk Road will also become an energy route linking East and West through Turkey," he added.
Erdoğan and Karamanlis shook hands in the middle of the bridge to inaugurate the 300-kilometer pipeline in a ceremony also attended by US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.
"This is a project of historic significance ... and it comes at a time when energy and environmental challenges are unfolding in the world," Karamanlis said. "It also shows that we can work together so that we can both gain."
The Turkish-Greek pipeline, known as the Southern European Gas Ring Project, will provide the European Union with its first supply of gas from the Caspian region, bypassing Russia and the volatile Middle East. Launched in 2005, the pipeline will link the Greek and Turkish networks, and eventually carry gas from Azerbaijan to Italy.
Analysts said it will send a message to the energy supplying Caspian states that they need not depend on Russia alone in exporting their hydrocarbon resources to Europe or in meeting their energy needs.
The project is also a major step in supporting Turkey's aspirations to become an energy transit hub. The Turkish-Greek pipeline will be the second pipeline transiting Turkey to transfer energy supplies from the Caspian region to the West. The first one, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, was launched in 2005 and is now bringing oil from Azerbaijan's Shahdeniz oil fields to Turkey's Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, from where the oil is shipped to Western markets. Turkey aims to become a bridge carrying at least 20 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas annually to Europe by 2010.
The United States, which backs efforts by some European nations to ease their dependency on Russian energy, has welcomed the project, which cost 0 million. "It's a great day for this part of the world," Bodman said at the opening ceremony. "This extraordinary project is the first link between Azerbaijan and Caspian gas suppliers of central Asia to European consumers."
The pipeline runs underwater from Karacabey in the northwestern province of Bursa to the Greek-Turkish border and to the Greek town of Komotini, where it links up to Greece's central network of natural gas pipelines, while a 970-kilometer stretch through Azerbaijan and Georgia then brings the gas to Turkey. It will initially carry 250 million cubic meters of gas annually. By 2012, when the 800-kilometer overland and undersea link to Italy is set for completion, annual capacity will reach 11.6 bcm. Then 3.6 bcm of gas will go to Greece and 8.0 bcm to Italy.
Azerbaijan's Shah Deniz gas started flowing into the Greek pipeline via Turkey last month. In July of this year, Turkey received the first shipment of natural gas via the 1,050-kilometer-long Erzurum line from the billion Shah Deniz project under a 15-year agreement it signed with Azerbaijan in March 2001.
Greece and Turkey came close to war three times in the past 33 years over the divided island of Cyprus, as well as over airspace and sea boundaries in the Aegean Sea. But the new pipeline, a reminder of the progress made since the two countries nearly went to war in 1996 over an uninhabited islet in the Aegean Sea, now offers the two countries a new era of economic and strategic partnership.
"All Greeks want good neighborly relations with Turkey ... and strongly support Turkey's course toward Europe," said Karamanlis at yesterday's ceremony. Though disputes over Aegean territoriality and the division of Cyprus remain, the NATO allies are now holding regular talks to bridge their differences and their economic partnership is booming.
The Greek government also has high hopes for the in the poor Thrace region with regards to economic development stemming from the pipeline.
Source: TODAY'S ZAMAN