Azerbaijan exports oil and natural gas to international markets and contributes to Turkey’s energy security. The recent Armenian attacks on the Tovuz region, which is on the route of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum (BTE) pipeline lines, as well as the Transanatolian Gas Pipeline Project (TANAP) ), are important to show the objectives of the attacks.
Armenia attacked the Tovuz region on July 12 and September 21 and is now trying to spread the fighting outside of Karabaj, especially at energy transfer points.
International energy projects are decisive for the salvation of Azerbaijan from Iranian and Russian influence in the region, and for the self-sufficiency of the country and the development of an independent policy.
Energy role of Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan is at a critical point in terms of access of the Caspian region’s resources to international energy markets. Thanks to the gas and oil pipelines that the country built together with Turkey and which reach international markets, Azerbaijan has become an influential player in the Caucasus.
The country has approximately 1.7 trillion cubic meters of natural gas and a reserve of 7,000 million barrels of oil, making it a major hydrocarbon producer. It also exports more than 30 million tons of oil and approximately 11 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year, which represents more than 90% of its exports as a country.
Azerbaijan will produce 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually by 2040, according to projections from the International Energy Agency. Therefore, Baku is expected to become a more important player in world markets by shipping Caspian oil and natural gas to world markets in larger quantities.
Turkey-Azerbaijan energy cooperation
The BTC pipeline, the BTE gas pipeline and the TANAP project occupy an important place in the Turkey-Azerbaijan energy cooperation. Baku carries out most of its exports through the BTC line, with which it accessed international markets and whose 6.5% of its shares belongs to Turkey Petroleum Corporation (TPAO). The line has an annual export capacity of around 50 million tons of crude oil and has transferred about 3.5 billion barrels since 2006, so it is known to represent large revenues for the country.
Further, Kazakhstan’s oil is transported to the port of Ceyhan, Turkey, through this pipeline, showing that this line plays a key role in accessing Central Asian energy resources to international markets. According to the pact signed between Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, up to 21 million tons of Kazakh oil will be exported after expanding the infrastructure of the line, in which 3 million tons of Kazakh oil are transferred annually.
The BTC Pipeline became operational despite opposition from Russia and Iran and thanks to the efforts of Turkey and other international energy companies. In the event that the oil from Kazakhstan and natural gas from Turkmenistan that will pass through this line are exported to world markets, Azerbaijan will not only be an energy producing country, but also a country located in the energy export corridor, that will come to the fore both economically and strategically.
The Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum Gas Pipeline (BTE) line decreased Turkey’s dependence on Russia and Iran significantly. It began operations in 2007 and transports more than 6 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year to Turkey. With this project, Turkey’s energy security increased. Especially in 2020, with the gas transported by TANAP, Azerbaijani gas became the most consumed in Turkey.
Silk road of energy: TANAP
Turkey owns 30% of the shares of the TANAP project, called ‘the silk road of energy’. Thanks to the line, Turkey went from being a natural gas consuming country to being a major player in the energy trade. The project plans to transport 16,000 million cubic meters in the first stage, 24,000 million cubic meters in 2023 and 31,000 million cubic meters in 2026. It is estimated that Turkey will have earned more than USD 40 billion from this project by 2045 .
The TANAP project, which will start on the Turkish border of Edirne and will supply the Trans Adriatic Gas Pipeline (TAP) that runs to Greece and Italy, will become a critical route in the transport of natural gas to Europe. Azerbaijan will get some economic and political benefits. Therefore, Baku will have managed to transfer its oil and gas to international markets other than Russia after its independence.
Energy cooperation between Turkey and Azerbaijan played a vital role in the formation of the East-West energy corridor. This cooperation increased the geopolitical and geostrategic importance of Turkey and contributed to the self-reliance of Azerbaijan.
Nagorno Karabakh has over 140,000 inhabitants, 99% of them Armenians. Armenian and local authorities accuse Azerbaijan of targeting civilians since the beginning of the fighting on September 27, especially in Stepanakert, the most important city in the enclave, where some 50,000 people live.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) condemned the “indiscriminate shelling”, which destroyed or damaged hundreds of homes and key infrastructure, such as hospitals and schools.
The Nagorno Karabakh region secede from Azerbaijan after the fall of the Soviet Union, leading to a war in the early 1990s that claimed 30,000 lives.
The current hostilities are one of the gravest crises, if not the gravest, since the 1994 ceasefire.
The two sides continue to accuse each other of the hostilities that have already caused some 600 deaths, 73 of them civilians, according to very partial balances, since Azerbaijan does not report military losses.
Despite repeated calls from Russia and Western countries, the truce negotiated with the mediation of Moscow, the ceasefire is still not being observed.
The United States, France and the European Commission among many others have asked to respect the truce but the conflict continues to escalate.
“The United States calls on Azerbaijan and Armenia to implement their commitments to an agreed ceasefire and to stop attacking civilian areas, such as Ganyá and Stepanakert,” urged Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
On a humanitarian level, the Red Cross warned that the consequences of the conflict on the population are devastating and it is feared that it will exacerbate problems such as those generated by the new coronavirus pandemic and the migration of thousands of refugees. / International writing with Anadolu