Azei-Russian Gas Deal an Opportunity, Says Aliyev

BAKU (Eurasianet)–Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has termed a recent gas agreement with Russia as a move that only helps Azerbaijan diversify its energy interests.

“Initially our exports were entirely focused on a Western direction,” ANS Press news service quoted Aliyev as saying in an interview published on July 5. Now, he said, the country has found a huge export outlet via Russia.

The June 29 agreement with Moscow names Gazprom as a potential purchaser of gas from Stage 2 of the sprawling Shah Deniz gas field in the Caspian Sea. Other prospective buyers must outbid Gazprom to take gas from the development. The agreement also provides for Azerbaijan to ship 500 million cubic meters of gas each year to Russia’s republic of Daghestan.

Aliyev said that his country will funnel additional gas to Russia after Stage 2 of Shah Deniz comes online — an event not expected before 2014.

“The agreement signed with Russia meets the interests of both Russia and Azerbaijan,” Aliyev went on to say. “It offers us an opportunity to arrive in a new, large market and an opportunity to secure total diversification of gas deliveries.”

The agreement has left a bitter aftertaste for supporters of the proposed Nabucco gas pipeline to Europe via Turkey, a project meant to cut into Russia’s hegemony on Caspian Sea oil and gas export routes. The second phase of Shah Deniz was meant to provide the bulk of supplies for Nabucco at an early stage of the project.

An intergovernmental agreement on the Nabucco project will be signed on July 13 in Ankara, Turkey.

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