Baku, Azerbaijan, Dec. 17
By Seymur Aliyev - Trend:
"Today is a historic day in the history of modern Azerbaijan, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said at the signing ceremony of the final investment decision on the project of the second phase of the Shah Deniz gas condensate field development in Baku today.
"The final investment decision on the Shah Deniz-2 energy project will provide long term successful economic development of our country," the president said.
The president stressed that the Shah Deniz-2 is one of the biggest energy projects in the world.
"It is a project of energy security, energy diversification, project of broad international cooperation between countries and companies involved in this historic project," Ilham Aliyev said.
"But today, I would like to go 19 years back, to 1994, when Azerbaijani energy strategy was launched," President Aliyev said.
"It was the wisdom, the vision and courage of our late president Heydar Aliyev that made it possible," the president said. "Only after three years of regaining independence, and only after one year, after the end of civil war in Azerbaijan and only after four months, after the ceasefire in the war with Armenia, Azerbaijan together with the foreign partners signed the Contract of the Century. It opened the Caspian sea, for the first time, for foreign investments, which provided successful economic development of our country."
Ilham Aliyev went on to add that while the previous contract was called the Contract of the 20th Century, the Shah Deniz project probably will be called the contract of the 21st century.
"Before we came to today's ceremony, there were several milestones in the history of development of independent Azerbaijan," the president noted. "In 1996 the contract on Shah Deniz was signed, then in 1999 the first pipeline connecting the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea from Baku to the Black Sea coast in Georgia was built."
"Then Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline was built in May 2006, which, for the first time, connected the Caspian Sea with international markets, including the Mediterranean market," the president said.
"In 2007 the South Caspian gas pipeline was built. It connected Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey with the new gas pipeline, which is part of today's ceremony," he said.
"In 2011 Azerbaijan and European Union signed a memorandum on strategic energy cooperation which also facilitated the development of the energy strategy of Azerbaijan, energy diversification and gas supplies to Europe," he said.
"In 2012 we signed a historic agreement with Turkey on Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP)," he added. "This year, in 2013, Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) was selected as the main export route. Now we are signing a final investment decision on Shah Deniz as well."
"So, this is the reflection of history," he said. "This is just a small example of these milestones, of this path, towards the full-scale development of one of the biggest gas fields in Azerbaijan. This project will change the energy map of the region and Europe. Azerbaijan's gas reserves will be transported to the market which expects them."
President Ilham Aliyev went on to add that according to the estimates, Azerbaijan's total gas reserves are close to three trillion cubic meters.
"Shah Deniz-2, TANAP and TAP are the biggest energy projects of the world," he said. "We expect at least $45 billion of investments and at least 30,000 new jobs along the line of the corridor. And of course this project needs a lot of additional efforts."
"Azerbaijan is just in the beginning of the huge project, which we will implement by joint efforts," the president said.
"Today, I would like to congratulate the people of Azerbaijan on this historic day," Ilham Aliyev said. "This will provide long-term sustainable economic development of our country. At the same time, I would like to express my gratitude to Shah Deniz consortium for their commitment to Azerbaijan. Especially I would like to express my gratitude to SOCAR and BP - strategic partners and two leaders of energy projects of Azerbaijan. The partnership between SOCAR and BP has a history of 20 years. And the investment decision signed today will allow us to continue this strategic partnership for at least 40 years more, and maybe even more than that."
"Today Azerbaijan's energy policy allowed us to transform the country's economy and to diversify it," the president added. "When Azerbaijan became independent, the country had zero GDP in private sector. Today, 85 percent of our economy is generated in private sector."
"We managed to reduce unemployment to the level of 4.8 percent, reduce the level of poverty to 5.5 percent," he said. "The country's foreign debt is only 8 percent of GDP. The financial situation is stable. We are actively investing in non-energy sector of the country's economy, which today makes 55 percent of our economy."
"Therefore, energy policy, close cooperation with international institutions, diversification and transparency are the main elements of successful development," he said.
"And I think that in case of Azerbaijan, we have avoided the 'oil curse', and avoided the so-called Dutch disease," he said. "We have shown an example when oil and now gas, serve the benefit of the people."
"Of course, one of the reasons for that was international cooperation," the president said.
"We highly appreciate the high level of international cooperation in Azerbaijan, because the knowledge and the expertise of foreign oil companies are very important for us," he said. So, we will continue this cooperation now in a bigger format."
"Today, we start a new format of cooperation, which will embrace many more countries and companies," he said. "And I am sure that Shah Deniz-2 project in the future will cover many more destinations than it is anticipated today."
"But today, we will concentrate, of course, on the construction of TANAP, TAP, in order to be able to deliver our gas to the European market in time," he said.
"We will need a very active cooperation between Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, Greece, Albania, Italy, Bulgaria, the countries which are now covered by initial stage of Shah Deniz," the president said. "At a later stage, we will start active cooperation with Montenegro and Croatia."
"There are the plans for extension of this pipeline to the Balkans," he added.
"At the same time, I hope that in the coming years Azerbaijan will actively work with our partners in Romania, Hungary and Austria to extend the pipeline to that destination," he said.
"Therefore we have big plans and the design of the pipeline is appropriate for these plans," he said. "In the future we will be able to deliver, and have the pipelines to be constructed for as much gas as we can produce," he said.
Ilham Aliyev underscored that Shah Deniz-2 is a project of energy security.
"Energy security of any country can not be separated from national security," he said. "This was not the case in the 1990's when Shah Deniz contract was signed, but today it is the case. And one of the main elements of energy security is natural gas. This is the today's situation, and I think that in the coming years it will not change. Therefore, energy security, energy diversification is as important for producers like Azerbaijan, but also for transiting and consuming sides."
"I am sure that we jointly will find the proper balance of interests between producing, transiting and consuming sides," he said. "We will establish such a format of cooperation which will be beneficial for all of us. Our energy strategy is based on friendship, cooperation and mutual support."
"Never in our history Azerbaijan tried to use its energy potential for other purposes - only to strengthen cooperation, to establish more fruitful bilateral and multilateral ties, and to show the signs of mutual support to our partners," the president said.