Weekly actual topics in Azerbaijan (Feb.23-27)

Azerbaijan "untied" Europe's hands

In recent days, Europe is becoming more and more daring in the confrontation with Russia on gas supplies from alternative sources.

This has been caused not only by the vital necessity to reduce dependence on Moscow's gas, but also by Azerbaijan, which gave the EU confidence in the existence of really new supply route - the Southern Gas Corridor.

"To ensure the diversification in gas supplies, work on the Southern Gas Corridor must be intensified to enable Central Asian countries to export their gas to Europe," read the European Commission's communication titled "A Framework Strategy for a Resilient Energy Union with a Forward-Looking Climate Change Policy", which was published Feb. 25.

Earlier, the European Commission's Vice-President for Energy Union Maros Sefcovic said Europe intends to find a technical and legal basis for the Turkmen gas supply via Azerbaijan.

Even earlier, Brussels stated its readiness to boost the conclusion of agreements with countries such as Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan.

All this suggests that Europe is ready to join the confrontation for Caspian gas. No doubt, there will be a confrontation and here is why.

Firstly, the EU wants access to the gas of Turkmenistan, which has gigantic reserves and ranks fourth in the world on this indicator.

Secondly, to deliver this gas, the infrastructure, namely, the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline is needed.

Thirdly, the timeframe chosen by the EU to accelerate this process coincides with the growing discontent of Ashgabat, as Moscow has in recent years reduced the volume of gas purchases from Turkmenistan by four times.

Naturally, this will cause negative reaction from Moscow. The sources alternative to Moscow's gas supplies play against it and it consistently opposes the construction of the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline referring to the environmental component of this project.

However, the latest changes on the energy map initiated by Azerbaijan inspired Europe. After having a ready infrastructure for supply - the Southern Gas Corridor - the EU will only need to involve Turkmenistan in it. If this happens, everyone will win. Everyone, except Russia.

Europe will get a new supply source and Turkmenistan will ensure another direction as part of the diversification of routes. What about Azerbaijan? By offering its territory, Azerbaijan will get funds from transiting fuel throughout its territory.

But that's not all. It will also get funds from transit throughout Turkey's territory where Baku is the main shareholder of TANAP gas pipeline, as well as over the territory of Europe where the country has a share in TAP.

Naturally, Russia will resist. However, Russia is not alone. Today, one of the largest economic players - China - shows interest in Turkmen gas. Beijing has repeatedly expressed readiness to purchase all free volumes of Turkmen gas. But does Ashgabat need to bind itself to one market only?

Oddly enough, but the US can also oppose the Trans-Caspian project. Washington is today lobbying for TAPI pipeline, which is designed to deliver gas from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

However, at the end of the day, everything will depend on Europe, to be more precisely, on what it can propose to Turkmenistan. Today, Brussels understands that if EU fails to find alternative gas sources, it will have to get hooked on to the Turkish Stream.

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