Having Sabotaged South Stream EU Now Desperate for Azerbaijan Gas

It's supposed to be the solution. EU hopes to receive first supplies by 2019

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This is an excerpt from an article that originally appeared at The New Great Game

The Foreign Ministers of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey gathered in Kars to strenghten trilateral cooperation between the three neighbors. Especially energy and transportation projects, such as the Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline (TANAP) and the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, were high on the agenda during the fourth trilateral meeting since the launch of this format in 2012.

Russia's decision to drop the South Stream project and redirect the pipeline to Turkey caused a great stir in Europe and some EU countries immediately expressed their concern that this could affect the implementation of TANAP but Turkish FM Mevlüt Cavusoglu put oil on troubled waters:

TANAP natural gas project is Turkey's priority: FM

The Trans Anatolia Natural Gas Pipeline, TANAP is Turkey's priority rather than Russia's last project proposal, according to Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Cavusoglu spoke on Putin's announcement of the suspension of the South Stream natural gas project and his proposal for an alternative route through Turkey to send natural gas to Greece and to European countries.

"We signed a memorandum of understanding with Russia but it doesn’t mean that TANAP stays in the background," Cavusoglu said at a meeting with Azerbaijan’s Elmar Mammadyarov and Georgia’s Tamar Beruchasvili on Wednesday.

After Turkey and Russia signed the MoU on constructing a gas pipeline across the Black Sea, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan emphasized that the deal was not binding and required more talks on the details. Ankara is admittedly interested in the project but the construction of TANAP, which is expected to start next year, takes top priority.

With South Stream dead and no Iran nuclear deal in sight, Europe is left out in the cold and new gas supplies are desperately needed.

The much-hyped Southern Gas Corridor is supposed to be the solution and the EU hopes to receive the first energy supplies from the Caspian region by 2019 but the construction of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) is apparently taking longer than expected.

Given that the countries of south-eastern Europe face several years of uncertainty, it is easy to understand why they have still not given up on Russia's South Stream project despite vehement opposition from Brussels and Washington [emphasis mine]:

EU turns to Azerbaijan for gas

The EU is considering plans for a new pipeline to enable gas imports from Azerbaijan. The push comes in the wake of Russia's decision to cancel the South Stream pipeline project.

EU Energy Commissioner Maros Sefcovic said Tuesday that a new high-level working group would be set up to advance the integration of central and south-eastern European gas markets and pipeline networks. As part of the effort, Sefcovic discussed proposals to link Azerbaijan's gas fields by pipeline with European markets.

The move is partly in response to the uncertainty generated by Russia's surprise decision to scrap the South Stream pipeline project that it had agreed with the EU.

Several EU member states that had invested in the South Stream pipeline, or stood to benefit from it - including Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Romania and Slovenia - asked Sefcovic to reach out to Russia and discuss whether it might reconsider its decision.

While Austria, Bulgaria & Co. wait in vain for Brussels to prioritize Europe's interests over Washington's, Azerbaijan stands to benefit from the demise of South Stream.

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