The United States considers Turkey a bridge to Iraq's energy and sees that very positively, Francis Ricciardone, the U.S. ambassador to Ankara, said yesterday during the U.S.-Turkey Smart Grid Workshop in Istanbul, Anadolu News Agency reports.
"Energy has always led our economic relationship. We are beginning to describe Turkey as bridge to Iraq's energy. We're very optimistic about that," he said.
He said conducting joint energy projects was important in his speech and added that such relations have been much more vivid compared to the past. The relationship will continue to rise with the fresh energy that comes with U.S. President Barack Obama's second term in office, he said.
The ambassador's statements came amid rising tensions between Baghdad and Ankara over the latter's assertive energy ties with the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq. These ties have aroused objections from the U.S. as well. Baghdad has been saying it alone has the authority to control exports of the world's fourth-largest oil reserves and deals outside of its authority are illegal.
Ricciardone praised Turkey's progress in the energy field and its strategic geographical location, which enables implementing critically important projects for both Turkish and European markets. The Smart Grid project of Turkey, funded by the U.S. Trade and Development Agency to provide a cheaper and safer electricity network, is only applicable because of Turkey's strategic importance, he said.
"In the 1990s when I was here, we were working on carrying Hazar energy and the Baku-Tiflis-Ceylan (BTC) oil pipeline. Now here, we're discussing really important energy alternatives prompted by Turkey's strategic geographical location for both Turkey's and European markets."
The transmission and development of smart grids will not contribute just to bilateral trade and gear up investments but will also provide employment for Turkey and bring Turks and Americans together, he added.
Ricciardone said the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Ankara would not be able to spoil the good relations of the two countries. Turkey and the U.S. will continue to enhance their bilateral trade relations as a response, he said.
Turkey's exports to the U.S. have surged 72 percent, while the U.S.' to Turkey surged by 65 percent between 2009 and 2012, elevating Turkey-U.S. trade volume to over $20 billion in 2012, he said, referring to the figures.