Ilham Aliyev: energy sphere inseparable from national security
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev addressed today the first round table of the 53rd Munich Security Conference - 'On the road to price stability: return of OPEC and oil geopolitics'. As the correspondent of Vestnik Kavkaza, the head of the agency's European Bureau Orkhan Sattarov reports, he stressed that the energy sphere is inseparable from national security.
"From this point of view, Azerbaijan plays an important role in ensuring the energy security of our neighbors. Now, in connection with the implementation of large gas projects, we play an important role for the EU," the President of Azerbaijan noted in the first place.
"Speaking about current Azerbaijan's role and its contribution to the energy security of both our region and Europe, we should recall the beginning of the Republic's energy strategy in the mid-1990s, when a young independent country with many challenges, both internal and external, which existed for only three years, with millions of refugees who lost their homes as a result of the Armenian occupation, for the first time in history invited largest energy companies in the world to the Caspian region. It was a historic step and a decision that changed the situation not only in Azerbaijan, but also in the region, and now is changing the region's energy map," Ilham Aliyev recalled.
"We were able to attract investment into the country, which only a year ago was in a state of civil war, which territories have been occupied and the population expelled, that is, the country that virtually had no chance for a successful development. Back then investments in Azerbaijani oil resources were the only way to strengthen our independence and overcome difficulties. In the mid-90s, we have attracted investments, started to develop Azerbaijan's oil fields together with the world's largest companies and built an extensive network of pipelines. Today we have seven pipelines - three oil pipelines and four gas pipelines. Our first aim was to ensure our own energy security, the development of vast oil and gas resources, the protection of national interests and the growth of living standards of the population," the President of Azerbaijan drew attention.
After reaching this goal, the republic started to actively promote the regional cooperation in the energy sector. "Oil pipelines connected Azerbaijan with the Black Sea and the Mediterranean regions and ensured the energy security of those countries, which help us in the transit of our energy resources. Later, we have become an transit country of oil and oil products delivered from the eastern Caspian Sea coast. Thus, Azerbaijan plays an important role in transportation of oil through various means - by both rail and pipelines, it helps its partners from the eastern shore of the Caspian sea to be able to diversify their supply routes," Ilham Aliyev said, noting that diversification is a major concept of energy security.
"Usually, when we talk about diversification, we mean diversification for consumers - but we must not forget about diversification for manufacturers, especially when these producers do not have access to the open seas, like Azerbaijan. Today, as a reliable manufacturer and oil supplier (some European countries receive 30-40% of their oil imports from Azerbaijan), as well as a reliable partner, our republic has achieved such a position in the region, that all countries can trust it," the Azerbaijani President stressed.
The Southern Gas Corridor has become the most important project in this regard. "Along with a wide range of countries and companies, with the support of the European Commission we are implementing it today. We have started this project in the 1990s, when Azerbaijan discovered a huge gas field, and it was decided to import our gas to the world markets. Today the Southern Gas corridor, as far as I know, is the largest infrastructure project in Europe. It costs more than $40 billion, it involves seven countries and at least three countries are planning to join it. We recently returned from Brussels where discussed this important project with the Presidents of the European Council and the European Commission," Ilham Aliyev said.
Azerbaijan and the European Commission signed a memorandum of strategic partnership in the energy field to implement the Southern Gas Corridor, and the project has already become a reality. "It is an integrated system of pipelines, connecting Azerbaijan with European markets and those countries which the pipelines pass on the way to Europe. The project creates a completely new regional cooperation between the countries of the Caucasus - Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkey - and the EU countries - Greece, Bulgaria, Italy and possibly Albania," the President of Azerbaijan said, adding that in the framework of the Southern gas corridor the Consultative Advisory Council format was created to comply with the interests of all the players.
"The meetings in this format has held in Baku twice, and the third meeting is scheduled for February 23. I can say that the work on the one of the main segments of the Southern Gas Corridor, the Trans-Anatolian pipeline (TANAP), has already been completed by 65%. The other segment - the South Caucasus pipeline (Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum) - has been completed by nearly 80%, and the Trans-Adriatic pipeline (the TAP) by 34-35%. The development of the Shah Deniz gas field, which is one of the largest in the world, has been completed by nearly 90%, and our goal is to deliver first volumes of gas from Azerbaijan to the world markets in the next year. If there are no obstacles, we plan to complete the project in 2020," the head of the Azerbaijani state said.
"Azerbaijan is a shareholder in all segments of the Southern Gas Corridor and its investor. We are also receiving loans from the World Bank and other international financial institutions - the Asian Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Bank. It is a truly large-scale financial, infrastructural, technical and energy project, which was initiated by our country, and we are proud of it. The new format of cooperation provides a completely new spirit of cooperation in the region, creating interconnections, interdependences, a predictability and new opportunities. Therefore, after completing this project, Azerbaijan's role as a reliable and a single new source of gas for Europe will increase and our relations with the European institutions will strengthen," Ilham Aliyev concluded.