Azerbaijan , Baku, April 4 /Trend, E.Ostapenko/
The Azerbaijan-Greece bilateral relations are growing and "we are happy to see that the number of high level visits in both countries has increased in recent years", Greek President Karolos Papoulias said in an interview with Trend in the run up to his Baku visit scheduled for April 4-6.
"Greece recognized Azerbaijan immediately after its independence and was among the first countries to open an embassy in Baku," he said.
"Two years ago I had the pleasure of receiving President Aliyev in Athens. His visit was very successful and a number of important bilateral cooperation agreements were signed. I was also pleased to accept Mr. Aliyev's invitation to return his visit," Papoulias said.
"Greece is particularly interested in the Caucasus area as has been shown both during our recent OSCE Chairmanship and during the 2003 Presidency of the EU," he stressed. "So, we are especially satisfied with the beginning of negotiations between Azerbaijan and the EU aiming at an Association Agreement. Greece, an EU member state, is committed to this perspective."
Papoulias said Greece has become an important energy hub towards south and central Europe. In 1986 Greece made a strategic decision to introduce natural gas to the country's energy map as a means of differentiating its energy sources.
"We have since seen a dramatic change to the Greek energy map. The share of natural gas as regards our domestic energy needs is in the region of 11 percent and rising," he added.
Papoulias said the ministerial meetings between the two countries were constructive and I expect the positive results to become a mutually beneficial and effective cooperation in the field of energy and especially in the field of natural gas.
Greece already imports natural gas from Azerbaijan via the Turkey- Greece pipeline which is part of the ITGI since 2007 on the basis of a commercial agreement signed between BOTAS and DEPA, he said.
" This covers 20 percent of the Greek market . In 2020 annual demand for natural gas in Greece will exceed 6.5 billion cubic meters as compared to the current 3.5 billion cubic meters. It is therefore expected that the Azeri natural gas will cover part of the market and will help create competitive conditions," Papoulias said.
ITGI gas pipeline (Turkey-Greece-Italy) involves gas supplies from the Caspian region and the Middle East to the EU countries. It includes updated Turkish pipeline infrastructure and also ITG projects such as the Turkey-Greece junction pipeline and IGI. Its planned capacity is 11.8 billion cubic meters per year.