Speech by Ilham Aliyev at the groundbreaking of the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline

17 march 2015, 22:20

- Dear President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, my dear brother.

Dear President Giorgi Margvelashvili, my dear brother.

Dear ladies and gentlemen.

I am very glad to be visiting fraternal Turkey again. I visited Turkey earlier this year – I paid an official visit at the invitation of my brother. Today I am in Turkey again. Inshallah next month, on 24 April, we will be celebrating the victory at the Battle of Chanaggala together. So this in itself is an indicator.

Turkey is our homeland. We always feel at home in Turkey. The unity, friendship and brotherhood between us are, in fact, a factor contributing to this occasion.

It is a historic day today – we are launching the TANAP project. Its foundation is being laid. This is an energy project. This is an energy security project. But above all, it is a project of Turkish-Azerbaijani unity and brotherhood. After the restoration of state independence by Azerbaijan, brotherly Turkey was the first to recognize us as an independent state. From that day onwards we have been moving forward together, supporting each other, rejoicing in each other's successes and always relying on each other.

We are pursuing our energy projects together. While sitting in this hall today and listening to the speeches of my esteemed colleagues, I somewhat returned 21 years ago, revived those days in my mind – 20 September 1994, the city of Baku, the "Gulistan" Palace, the signing of the "Contract of the Century". Perhaps we could not imagine at the time how important that day was and what great implications it would have. Azerbaijan was an independent state for only about three years by the time. Thanks to the views, political wisdom and courage of our national leader Heydar Aliyev, a new energy strategy of Azerbaijan was launched then. The "Contract of the Century" essentially opened the way to the present day for us. We were the first to invite foreign oil companies to the Caspian Sea. Prior to that, the Caspian Sea was a closed water basin. In a short period of time we embarked on the development of the "Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli" field. First oil was produced there in 1997. After that, of course, the discussions started about export routes of this oil, and the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline was chosen as the main export route. Let me remind you that in 2006, together with my dear brother President Erdogan, we celebrated the opening of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline in Ceyhan. Today, it is impossible to imagine the energy security of the region and the continent without this project. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, in fact, opened the way and created an energy corridor. While visiting Kars today, I want to note with a sense of great satisfaction that the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway is also being built along this energy corridor. It has also paved the way for the construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline. So those historic days further reinforce our success today, because we are building our future on the basis of history, just as the peoples of Turkey and Azerbaijan are building their future on a common history.

I believe that the history of the past 20 years is unique on a global scale. In 1996, BP and SOCAR signed a contract on the development of the "Shah Deniz" field. We did not know at the time how much gas the "Shah Deniz" field has. But we probably had an idea – otherwise, this deposit would not have been called "Shah Deniz", i.e. the "shah of the sea". The Shah of the Caspian Sea, "Shah Deniz", has fully lived up to its name. For the time being, "Shah Deniz" is one of the largest gas fields on a global scale and the only source of the "Southern Gas Corridor". I am saying "for the time being" because I am sure that gas will also be produced from other major gas fields in Azerbaijan in the near future, and we will thus provide the "Southern Gas Corridor" with additional volumes of gas.

The history of the TANAP project is very short but glorious. In 2012, my dear brother Recep Tayyip Erdogan and I signed the TANAP agreement in Istanbul, and over a short period of time this project has secured tremendous support on a global scale. In a short time the TANAP project is already being implemented and its foundation is being laid today.

In 2013, TAP was selected as a constituent part of the "Southern Gas Corridor". At present, hard work is under way on all constituent parts of the "Southern Gas Corridor". The "Southern Gas Corridor" consists of four parts: "Shah Deniz", the South Caucasus Pipeline, TANAP and TAP. On 20 September 2014, we laid the foundation of the "Southern Gas Corridor" in Baku. Work has already begun. I am sure that all of this work will go on schedule and be completed in a timely manner.

Today, the "Southern Gas Corridor" is the largest infrastructure project in Europe. The amount of funds to be invested in this project will reach at least $45 billion. Today, the main participants in the TANAP project are Turkey and Azerbaijan. I am very pleased that our strategic partner BP has also joined the project as an investor.

Azerbaijan is very rich in natural gas reserves. Azerbaijan’s proven gas reserves alone amount to 2.6 trillion cubic meters. The volume of projected reserves is twice as high. Today this resource base provides the "Southern Gas Corridor". But, as I said, we have other fields as well. Now we are working on these fields. I am sure that large volumes of Azerbaijani gas will be transported to neighboring countries and Europe.

The importance of the "Southern Gas Corridor" also consists of the fact that a new format of cooperation is emerging in our region – in Eurasia. At the first stage of it we have created a trilateral format – the format of energy, transport, political and strategic partnership involving Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan. Now it manifests itself as a tangible regional factor. But today we are expanding this format. Other countries such as Greece, Bulgaria, Albania and Italy are joining this work. In the future, Azerbaijani gas will be delivered to Balkan countries. I am sure of that. At the same time, Bulgaria, which is a member of the Nabucco project, is already involved in our project too. Romania and Hungary, I am sure, can join these projects as well. I repeat that the resource base is large enough.

The capacity of the "Southern Gas Corridor" is large enough, and in the future, if need be, this capacity can be further expanded. We must try to provide neighboring and friendly countries with natural gas as much as possible. Thus, a new format of cooperation is emerging. The participating countries are becoming natural allies. In other words, a very serious and new alliance is about to emerge in the Eurasian region. Both political and economic impact of this will be very large. The history and culture of these countries are different – we belong to different civilizations. But we share good intentions, as well as specific projects. Therefore, the "Southern Gas Corridor" is not simply an energy project and pipeline, it is a serious political initiative. This is a project that brings economic benefits, and all participating countries will benefit.

Our main desire is to provide benefit to all countries involved. Producing countries, transit countries, consumer countries – their interests should be combined. There is a balance of interests. Only in this case can we succeed. To this end, we conducted the first Advisory Council meeting of the "Southern Gas Corridor" in Baku last month, and it was a great success. I am very glad that it was attended by the Vice-President of the European Union, a senior official of the US State Department and, of course, representatives of all member countries of the "Southern Gas Corridor". So it is a broad international format. In the coming period, mutual understanding, coordination and mutual confidence will speed up our work. We need to trust each other more. I should note that Azerbaijan, as a country that perhaps has the most experience in these matters, will continue to make its contribution in the future.

All projects we have initiated together with Turkey and Georgia have been a success – Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum. The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway is also nearing a successful completion. Therefore, I have no doubt whatsoever that the "Southern Gas Corridor" and its important part TANAP will also be successfully implemented. This is a diversification project. Large volumes of gas will be transported to Europe and Turkey from a new source. Currently, the only new source of gas for Europe is "Shah Deniz" and Azerbaijani gas. In the future there will be other sources, but now this is the only new source. The diversification of sources is very important. The diversification of routes is also very important. We all talk about diversification, but it is important to have new sources. As it was noted here, the demand for gas in the world, in particular in Europe, will gradually increase. Traditional sources, of course, are depleting. There should be a new resource base. Currently, Azerbaijan is this resource base.

I am sure that we will do the work at the proper level in the future. The necessary coordination work is under way. The main thing is that there is mutual understanding, mutual respect between us and confidence in each other.

I see a great symbolic meaning in the fact that the foundation of the TANAP project is being laid on the eve of Novruz, on the Last Tuesday of the year. We are attached to our national traditions, are committed to them and are building our future on the basis of national values. We are also open to the world. The people gathered here today, the visitors from different countries are our dear friends. We are doing and will continue to do this work together.

I wish TANAP every success. Inshallah, we will be together at the opening of TANAP in three years. Thank you.