Energy, pipelines bring Turkey, Azerbaijan closer

Improving ties between Turkey and Azerbaijan have been strengthened by joint energy agreements.

al-monitor Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev (L) shakes hands with Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan after a news conference in Ankara, Nov. 13, 2013. Photo by REUTERS/Umit Bektas.

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turkish foreign relations, turkey gas pipeline, tanap pipeline, pipeline, oil & gas, azerbaijan gas

Nov 21, 2013

Turkish-Azerbaijani relations are once again booming. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's visit to Turkey last week was very successful. The relations that had deteriorated in parallel with Turkey’s softening ones with Armenia are back to what they were in the old days and are likely to grow further.

Energy has a special place in the relationship between the two countries. Turkey is the most secure export route for Azerbaijani oil and natural gas. Azerbaijan's oil reaches the Mediterranean through the Baku-Tiflis-Ceyhan pipeline.

The 1,768-kilometer (1,098-mile) pipeline, which became fully operational in 2006 and travels 1,076 km (668 miles) across Turkish territory, is a lifeline for Azerbaijan. It allows the country to truly utilize its natural resources and has added to its wealth.

Turkey’s purchases of natural gas from Azerbaijan also contribute significantly to this wealth. This is why Baku pays the utmost attention to this pipeline and is eager to construct new ones.

The Trans-Anatolian natural gas pipeline project (TANAP) is a strategic investment and a priority for both countries. The TANAP line, which was agreed on in 2012, will carry natural gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz-2 fields and other sources to meet Europe’s gas demands. Of course, the other goal of the project is to satisfy Turkey’s energy demands and reduce dependence on Russia.

The pipeline will start from Azerbaijan and reach the borders of Greece and Bulgaria through Turkey. The first phase of the project will be finished by 2014 and the entire project will be completed by 2026.

This project, which will cost $6 billion to $7 billion, also has major political significance. Pipelines provide strong connections between countries. Political and economic integration becomes easier along the route of the pipelines. In other words, these pipelines make the destinies of Turkey and Azerbaijan inextricable. They also add to the regional power and prestige of both countries.

This is why Turkey has never looked at pipelines purely as economic enterprises and has always placed them among its political priorities.

While talking of pipelines, we should not ignore the railway connection under construction between Turkey-Georgia and Azerbaijan. With this project, Turkey will bypass Armenia and establish a direct and rapid connection with the Caspian coast. Turkey also wants to build a rail link between Igdir in Turkey and Nahcivan in Azerbaijan to further boost integration.

In short, Azerbaijan sees its future in Turkey. Neither Iran nor Russia can provide it an alternative outlet to the outside world. That may explain why Baku is not limiting its investments to pipelines, but also building refineries in Turkey and becoming a partner in oil processing and distribution networks.

As Azerbaijan gets richer, its investments in Turkey will also increase and provide billions of dollars to the Turkish economy. The cost of this growing relationship will, however, be at the expense of Turkey-Armenia relations, which are at standstill.

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