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Tehran and Ankara launch second round of energy discussions

Monday, August 13, 2007

ANKARA - Turkish Daily news

Despite opposition by the united States to an energy deal between Turkey and its arch foe Iran, Ankara and Tehran are meeting for the second round of discussions today in the Iranian capital.

Negotiators from Tehran and Ankara met in July to discuss technical details of signing an agreement on the transfer of Iranian natural gas. The Turkish delegation went to Tehran yesterday to continue the process, reported CNN Türk.

Tehran appointed Hojjatollah Ghanimifard, a well-known negotiator, for the talks. The negotiations will focus on prices, transfer, marketing, amount and the quality of the gas.

It is expected that the agreement will be finalized after the end of technical talks and after Energy Minister Hilmi Güler's visit to Tehran at the end of August or early September.

Turkey and Iran signed a memorandum of understanding to transport some 30 billion cubic meters (bcm) of Iranian and Turkmen natural gas to Europe on July 13. According to the deal, Turkey will also develop three Iranian gas fields.

U.S. officials criticized the Turkish move, which comes at a time when the United States is seeking tough sanctions on Iran for its alleged nuclear program and suggested the transfer of Turkmen gas via the Caspian Sea.

Turkey looks for alternatives:

On the other hand, Turkey tries to diversify the gas transfer lines and aims to be not just a transit state but also one involved in trading the commodity.

"In our energy policy, our aim is to implement agreements without disturbing or opposing anybody. Turkey is pursuing an active energy diplomacy not only on the East-West axis but also the North-South axis and has become an active player in the energy equation," Güler told Reuters last week.

Turkey wants to buy some of the 21 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Azerbaijan's Shakh Deniz gas field in its second phase of production, Güler said.

The gas fields are being exploited for a pipeline that will pass through Turkey to Greece and on to Italy.

Güler and Azerbaijani Energy Minister Natik Aliyev made progress in talks last week in Ankara on launching the second phase of production before 2012.

"The gas coming from Shakh Deniz will not only meet the needs of Greece and Italy but of Turkey, too," Güler told Reuters.

Production at the gas field in its first phase is expected to be 9.6 bcm from the fourth quarter in 2008.

Pipeline construction delays have slowed down the transport of natural gas to Europe, but Turkey has said Shakh Deniz gas will reach Greece by September 15. The pipeline will then be extended to Italy.

The 4.6 billion euros ($6.14 billion) Nabucco project, which aims to transport Caspian gas to Austria via Turkey and the Balkans, is seen as a way of reducing Europe's dependence on Russian energy after Moscow cut off supplies to Ukraine and Belarus in the past following political rows


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