Turkey emerges as world energy hub after big deals

Posted on 14 February 2011

Date: 24/08/2009
Turkey emerges as world energy hub after big deals

Turkey, which is short of gas and oil, is trying to turn itself into the largest energy hub in the world through forging a series of high-profile transit agreements.

First, Turkey signed with four European countries a deal on the Nabucco gas pipeline in Ankara on July 13. The Nabucco gas pipeline is intended to transfer natural gas from Caspian region, Iran, Iraq and Egypt to Europe through Turkey.

The primary goal for Europe in establishing Nabucco was to reduce its dependence on Russia. The 11.6 billion dollar EU-backed pipeline is expected to become operational in 2014.

However, local specialists noted that although the funding and the project agreement were no longer a problem, the biggest challenge facing Nabucco became the gas suppliers.

Twenty-four days later, Turkey hosted Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to sign a deal on the South Stream gas project, which aims to bypass Ukraine and possibly render the Nabucco gas pipeline ineffective.

The visit was especially important for Ankara as Putin’s visit offered a new opportunity to engage Russia in shaping deepened bilateral ties, ranging from the Nabucco pipeline project to the possible Russian construction of a new nuclear plant in Turkey.

On August 8, Turkey and Azerbaijan’s Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic signed a memorandum of understanding on laying a natural gas pipeline. The pipeline will be laid from Turkey’s eastern city of Igdir to Nakhichevan.

A few days earlier, three energy protocols between Qatar and Turkey were signed. On Thursday, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz went to Syria to conclude a deal on a gas pipeline transferring Syrian gas to Turkey.

All these energy agreements put Turkey in an important position in global energy geopolitics. The unique position of Turkey as a bridge between the East and West created new avenues for improving regional relations.

Yildiz said, “Turkey’s deal with Nabucco, Russia, talks with Azerbaijan over gas and energy agreements with Qatar have opened up a new phase. Arab natural gas is an integral part of Turkey’s energy policy. Turkey already understands its power. The entire world has seen that there is no choice without Turkey.”

Koc University Professor Ziya Onis thinks that energy agreements will improve Turkey’s role in the region. “Turkey will benefit greatly out of these energy agreements,” said Onis.

Sedat Laciner, the head of the International Strategic and Research Center (ISRO) in Turkey, holds that Turkey’s energy expansion in fact secures Turkey’s role in energy security. “Turkey has already become a transit country on an energy crossroads, and it also wants to export to the third countries,” said Laciner.

In addition to the economic reasons, Laciner said Turkey also has strategic goals. He thinks that Azerbaijan and other Central Asian countries cannot really export their gas to the West, and they are heavily influenced by Russian foreign policy. “Turkey, in this respect, helps them reach out to the Western markets,” he said.

Despite several opposing views that Turkey is building its own web of dependence, most observers believe that Turkey is now more able to control its neighboring countries and these moves are about interdependence rather than dependence. The main goal of Turkey’s energy strategy is to strengthen the transit role of the country on the axes of the East-West and North-South, as well as transform Turkey into the energy center of the region.

23 August 2009 from by Xinhua writer Chen Ming

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