Sabah – The fifth Turkey and Azerbaijan High Strategic Cooperation Council meeting ended with a mutual resolution for firmer ties between the two countries across a number of fields, including energy, transportation, defense and tourism.
The meeting, held at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, was attended by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev. Six cooperation agreements were signed during the meeting alongside a declaration to increase efforts to complete the Trans Anatolian Pipeline Project (TANAP) before the scheduled date.
Speaking at the press conference after the meeting, President Erdoğan called TANAP the most important project developed between Turkey and Azerbaijan, stating that both sides were working hard to finish the project before the intended time.
“We are in close coordination with all the stakeholders regarding the Southern Gas Corridor, of which TANAP forms the backbone,” he said about the USD 10 billion natural gas pipeline.
TANAP is designed to carry 16 billion cubic meters of gas per year from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II gas field to Turkey and on to European markets by connecting to the Trans Adriatic Pipeline on the Turkish-Greek border. The project will reduce Europe’s dependency on Russian gas considerably and help reinforce Turkey’s status as an energy corridor.
The Georgian and Azeri stages of the pipeline have been under construction since 2014. First flow of gas should occur in 2018 after the Turkey leg is complete. Current shareholders of the project are the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR) with 58 percent, Turkey’s state-owned oil and gas pipeline company BOTAŞ with 30 percent and energy major BP with 12 percent.
Another topic discussed at the meeting was the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway project, which is nearing completion. Expected to be ready by the end of 2016, the railway will not only link Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan but entire continents, according to Turkey’s President.
“The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway line will allow direct rail transportation between London and Beijing,” President Erdoğan said, adding that the opening of the high-priority project will send an important message to the world.
Speaking of the level of trade between the two countries, the President said that the target is to reach USD 15 billion by 2023. “Despite the drop in our bilateral trade volume in 2015 due to global economic conditions and falling energy prices, we remain committed to our 2023 goal,” he said.
The Turkish-Azeri cooperation is not limited to pipeline projects as TANAP’s largest partner SOCAR, is also building a refinery on the Izmir Petkim Peninsula in Turkey’s Aegean region. The Star refinery, along with TANAP, will make the Azeri company the single-largest foreign direct investor in Turkey with a USD 20 billion portfolio.