Baku, Azerbaijan, June 15
By Seymur Aliyev - Trend:
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso's visit to Azerbaijan is a very important amid the consolidation in the post-Soviet area, political crisis in Ukraine, the expected disruptions in gas supplies to Eastern Europe and deterioration of relations between Russia and the EU.
Today, we can observe a confrontation among the U.S. and the EU on one hand, and Russia - on the other. And each of the parties in this confrontation intends to enlist support from the region's most influential players, Azerbaijan being one of them.
The visits of the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin to Azerbaijan, previously announced to be held in the next few days, will become highly anticipated amid these developments.
Today, Azerbaijan's authority in the region is undeniable. One just needs to take a look at the names of the major projects realized and the ones being realized in recent years in the region, and it becomes clear that they all begin in Baku.
Among these projects are: the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan, Baku-Supsa and Baku-Novorossiysk oil pipelines, Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline and the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway.
This is why many people today want to see Baku as a reliable ally. This was also confirmed by the European Commission's president, who stressed that Azerbaijan plays a constructive role in political dialogue at the global level.
For Europe the energy sector is one of the highest priorities of economic cooperation with Azerbaijan. Caspian Sea region has large gas reserves and the gas delivery via alternative routes to the EU will solve the main issue - the energy security.
This process was also launched by Azerbaijan, and the first project within the 'Southern Gas Corridor' will be realized under Azerbaijan's political will.
Starting from 2019, some 10 billion cubic meters of gas, to be supplied to Europe from the Shah Deniz-2 field, will not be much significant in terms of total imports; however the importance of this process lies in the creation of a new route, which needs large investments, which means taking significant risks.
Once the route is launched, other manufacturers not only from Azerbaijan but also from other countries of the Caspian region can join it. This will increase the supplies by several times.
Moreover, gas from Azerbaijan will allow meeting the needs of many countries in Eastern Europe. Gas consumption is not so high there, but it traditionally depends on supplies from Russia. Thus, ensuring alternative supplies, Brussels will have a strong argument in negotiations with Moscow.
However, it is necessary to take into account the fact that today Azerbaijan holds its own independent policy. The settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is a priority issue for the country. Those willing to develop cooperation with Baku must take into account this fact and influence Armenia so it would stop its occupation policy.
Along with that, Baku pursues balanced political and economic policy in the region. This envisages significant cooperation with Russia, with which Azerbaijan has established close ties.
A protocol of the Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation was signed among Azerbaijan, the EU and the member-states as part of European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso's visit to Azerbaijan.
Today, Azerbaijan and the EU are developing a new format of cooperation.
"I hope that we will actively work on a new format for our cooperation in the coming months," President Aliyev said, during Mr Barroso's visit to the country. "We have discussed this potential format of cooperation."
Thus, Azerbaijan has once again demonstrated its willingness to develop and intensify cooperation with Europe. However, anyone willing to cooperate with the country must take into account an independent and balanced policy of Azerbaijan and its interests.
Seymur Aliyev is Trend Russian News Service head