Turkey hopes to become Europe's gas alternative

AP - As Europe is once again held hostage to the gas quarrels between Ukraine and Russia, Turkey is hoping to become an alternative route for the continent's rising energy imports. Turkey is pushing plans for a pipeline that would bypass both Russia and Ukraine in a bid to strengthen its role as an energy crossroads between Central Asia and the Middle East to Europe. The 2,050-mile (3,300 kilometer) projected Nabucco pipeline is backed by the EU and the United States and would run from the Caspian Sea across Turkey to Austria. Construction is scheduled to start next year. The project is fraught with complications but the EU hopes to use it as a leverage to break its dependence on Russian energy, potentially enhancing Turkey's hand in overcoming stiff EU resistance to letting it into the elite club of nations. "The Southern Corridor is one of the cornerstones of our diversification policies" EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs wrote in his blog recently. "We all have the need to open a real corridor to make it attractive for Central Asian countries to pipe their gas to the West, to Turkey and to the European market." Christian Dolezal, a spokesman for the Nabucco project, said Europe will require more gas in coming years. "Turkey with its important strategic position will become an energy hub if Nabucco comes into stream and this would be a win-win situation for both Europe and Turkey" Dolezal said.