Ilham Aliyev, the heads of state and government attended the ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the Contract of the Century and lay the foundation of the Southern Gas Corridor

20 september 2014, 13:30

A solemn ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the Contract of the Century and lay the foundation of the Southern Gas Corridor has been held at the Heydar Aliyev Centre.

President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, the heads of state and government and other guests posed for photographs.

The head of state addressed the event.

Speech by President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev:

- Distinguished heads of state and government,

Dear guests, 

Ladies and gentlemen!

My warm greetings to all of you! It is a very momentous and historic day in the life of our country today – the foundation of the Southern Gas Corridor is being laid. Let me congratulate you and the people of Azerbaijan on this occasion!

20 September is a historic date for our country. Twenty years ago, on 20 September 1994, the "Contract of the Century" was signed. It was a historic event because the young and independent Azerbaijan was not a popular country in the world at the time. Azerbaijan was faced with enormous challenges. The early years of our independence were extremely difficult.

The Armenian occupation, the civil war, the economic and political crises – all of these factors posed huge problems and hampered the development of our country.

Today, we are gathered at the Center named after great leader Heydar Aliyev to once again give a high assessment to the work done by the late President. It is thanks to his vision, courage and wisdom that the "Contract of the Century" was signed. This opened up extensive opportunities for the development of Azerbaijan. A huge investment influx was ushered to Azerbaijan. For the first time in history the process of international cooperation in the Caspian Sea began. Azerbaijan obtained the opportunity to deliver its ample oil resources to the world market. The overall economic and political development of our country began precisely with the "Contract of the Century". So our oil strategy has been implemented for 20 years. It has brought huge benefits to our country. Over the years Azerbaijan has consistently expanded its capabilities. In those years oil pipelines linked the Caspian Sea with to the Black and Mediterranean Seas for the first time ever. This is also a historic achievement. I can say that in general the oil and gas sector has seen a number of important stages since 1994. I want to mention some of them. The signing of the "Contract of the Century" on 20 September 1994 and the signing of the Agreement on the "Shah Deniz" gas field in 1996. This was also a very important event because the source of funding for the Southern Gas Corridor today is the "Shah Deniz" gas field. "Shah Deniz" is one of the biggest gas fields in the world with reserves exceeding 1 trillion cubic meters of gas.

In 1999, the Baku-Supsa oil pipeline was built, linking the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea. It was also a new export route.

And in 2003 the foundation was laid for the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, which linked the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean. Today it operates as an export pipeline not only for Azerbaijan, but also the countries located in the eastern part of the Caspian Sea. In addition, the construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline in 2007 was also a historic event, as it enabled Azerbaijan to assert itself in the world as a gas country. 

The construction of a new segment of the pipeline is actually beginning today. In 2007, Azerbaijan already commissioned the first part of the Southern Gas Corridor. In the ensuing years we worked hard on this major project. As you know, there were several options. In 2012, thanks to the activities of the political leaders of Turkey and Azerbaijan, the agreement was reached on the construction of the Trans-Anatolian pipeline. The TANAP project and its realization as a whole is a historic event. It was after the TANAP project was negotiated that the Southern Gas Corridor became discernible. The TAP project, the selection of the Trans-Adriatic pipeline as the main export route, was also a historic event in 2012.

At the same time, gas sale agreements were signed last year. In other words, all the horizons are open and the road ahead of us is clear. We simply need to work together to ensure the completion of the Southern Gas Corridor, and we will do it.

In short, Azerbaijan has consistently pursued its energy policy in recent years. Today's ceremony is only the top of the work done. If the issues I have mentioned had not been resolved back then, there could be no talk of the Southern Gas Corridor today. Currently, the project is fully ready. The construction of the corridor begins today. In the future, we certainly need to try to do this work together with partner countries. Coordination should be at a high level.

This project will bring additional dividends to Azerbaijan. The country's economy will grow even faster despite the fact that in the last 10 years Azerbaijan has been the fastest growing economy globally. This project opens up new opportunities for us. Over the past 10 years our gross domestic product has grown by more than three times and the budget costs 20 times.

The external public debt accounts for only 8 per cent of our gross domestic product. Unemployment has dropped to 5 per cent and poverty slightly exceeds 5 per cent. According to the recent estimates of the Davos World Economic Forum, Azerbaijan's economy is ranked 38th in the world for the level of competitiveness. It is a great achievement for us, which shows that our economy is developing in a diversified manner.

Oil and gas resources are only an additional benefit and support for us. This allows us the opportunity to invest in these projects. Azerbaijan is the main investor in TANAP and will assume the main financial burden. In "Shah Deniz", TAP and other projects Azerbaijan is financing its share itself. Thus, the economic dividends obtained earlier are now serving our common interests.

At the same time, this project is very profitable for our partner countries. There are no losers in this project. Every party will benefit. Transit countries are also consumers. Consumer countries will achieve diversification of gas supplies. This project will provide for the energy security of Europe. It is no coincidence that the document signed between the European Commission and Azerbaijan three years ago underlines the fact that Azerbaijan is a country playing a very important role in the energy security of Europe. And from this day on this role will further increase.

Indeed, energy security is a matter of national security for each country. It is impossible to separate the energy sector from politics and economics. Together with our partners we will take part in ensuring the energy security of Europe. The main source of funding is the "Shah Deniz" gas field. But there are even more gas reserves in Azerbaijan. Our proven gas reserves amount to 2.5 trillion cubic meters, while estimated reserves are projected at a level of 4-5 trillion cubic meters.

Caspian gas is the only new source for Europe. There are other sources too and Europe uses them. The volume of these sources may increase, but Azerbaijan is a new source now. I am sure that the diversification of energy security routes, the joint activities of producing, transit and consumer countries will bring success. This requires a very serious coordination effort. Prior to this only three countries participated in our oil and gas projects – Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. Today we are entering a process of broad international cooperation. Azerbaijan as a gas producing country will supply its resources to the world market. Afterwards the project will be open to Georgia, Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Albania, Italy, and at the next stage to Montenegro, Croatia and other countries. Therefore, coordination should be done at a very high level.

I believe that a new international team is emerging in this sphere, in the oil and gas sector, today. All members of the team are here in this hall today. I am confident that our joint work will be successful and our team will succeed. Good luck!