President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has attended "On the Road to (Price) Stability? The return of OPEC and the Geopolitics of Oil" roundtable as part of the Munich Security Conference.
President of the Munich Security Conference Wolfgang Ischinger greeted President Ilham Aliyev:
- Mr. President you have spoken at this conference a large number of times. Your expertise is important not only as somebody who presides or runs a country that plays an important role in energy, but also as someone who has presided over a country now for more than a decade and a half, which sits along one of the fold lines of Eurasian security and politics. I cannot tell this group how grateful I am to you that you gave me your time repeatedly when I visited your country.
President and CEO of Offshore Northern Seas Foundation Leif Johan Sevland, who chaired the round table, said that over the past five decades the Munich Security Conference has developed to become a global institution and forum for discussing the security policy. He then introduced President Ilham Aliyev:
-The first speaker of this round-table I am proud and honored to present is President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan. The President was elected as President of the Republic of Azerbaijan in 2003, and was re-elected in 2008 and 2013. I have read your very impressive CV, Mr. President. You have a several high-ranking industrial, and political positions in Azerbaijan before you were elected as President. You are the author of the numerous research works on geopolitical aspects of oil strategy of sovereign Azerbaijan and hold the degree of doctor of political science. Mr. Ischinger mentioned the importance of Azerbaijan as an important country when it comes to oil and gas production, strategic location both to the Eastern and Western markets. And we look forward to having your affections on the energy security. President Aliyev, the word is yours.
The head of state made a speech at the round table.
Speech of President Ilham Aliyev
- Thank you very much. First of all, I would like to express gratitude to Ambassador Ischinger for invitation. It is a pleasure to participate at such an important global event like Munich Security Conference. Of course, energy security cannot be separated from countries' national security. From this point of view, Azerbaijan plays its important role in providing energy security for the neighborhood, and now, with respect to the implementation of the mega gas delivery project will play an important role for European energy security.
Of course, talking about today's role of Azerbaijan and our contribution to energy security of our region and Europe, we should go back to the beginning of energy strategy of Azerbaijan, to the mid-1990s when a young, independent country, only a three years old, with a lot of difficulties, internal and external, with million people homeless as a result of Armenian occupation, for the first time invited the major energy companies of the world to the Caspian Sea. That was a historic move and decision, which changed the situation not only in Azerbaijan, but in the region and actually now changed the energy map of the region. We managed to attract the investment to the country which just was a year ago in the situation of civil war, occupation, had million refugees, and without any means for successful development. At that time, investments in our oil reserve was the only way how we could strengthen our independence and overcome difficulties. Therefore, middle of the 1990s was important for us. We attracted investments, we started to produce together with major energy companies huge oil fields of Azerbaijan and built a multiple pipeline system to transport our oil. And today we have seven pipelines – three oil pipelines, four gas pipelines to all the directions. Therefore, the first target was to provide energy security for ourselves and to be able to extract enormous oil and gas reserves to provide our interests, and to improve living standards of our people. At a later stage, this project transformed into regional cooperation project when the pipelines were built. Oil pipelines today connect Azerbaijan with the Black Sea and Mediterranean and provide also energy security for those countries, which help us to transport these energy reserves.
Later we became a transitor for oil and oil products delivery from the Eastern shores of the Caspian. So Azerbaijan is playing an important role in oil transportation through different means, through railroad, and through oil pipelines. Therefore, we are helping our partners on the Eastern shores of the Caspian to be able also to diversify their supply routes. Diversification actually, I think, is the main word when we talk about energy security. And usually when we talk about diversification we mean diversification for consumers. We understand that. But we also mean diversification for producers, especially, when these producers are landlocked as Azerbaijan, when they don't have access to open seas.
By the way, some of the countries in Europe have about 30-40 percent of their oil from Azerbaijan. Therefore, today as a reliable oil producer and supplier, and also as a reliable transit country, Azerbaijan already established itself in the region as a partner that others can rely on.
Of course, today, together with a broader number of countries, companies and support of European Commission we implement the Southern Gas Corridor project, a project generated by the projects, which we started to implement in the 1990s. As soon as we made a huge discovery of the gas deposits in Azerbaijan the decision was made to transport it to the international markets. Now the Southern Gas Corridor is, as far as I know, the biggest infrastructure project in Europe. Its total cost is more than 40 billion dollars. It involves seven countries at this stage, and at least three countries in the coming year will join the project, which is supported by European Commission.
I just recently returned from Brussels and with Mr. Sefcovic, and also with President of European Council and European Commission we discussed this important project. We have a memorandum signed between European Commission and Azerbaijan on strategic partnership in energy. The Southern Gas Corridor is already a reality. It is an integrated pipeline system of three different pipelines connecting Azerbaijan with European markets, and connecting Azerbaijan with the countries on route to European markets. This project created an absolutely new regional cooperation format where there are countries of the Caucasus – Georgia and Azerbaijan and Turkey, and then countries of European Union like Greece, Bulgaria and Italy and also Albania as a candidate. So it is not easy to provide interests of all these players. For this reason, together with European Commission we launched three years ago a format, which is called the Consultative Advisory Council of the Southern Gas Corridor, which already twice gathered in Baku. And the third meeting is scheduled with the presidency of Mr Sefcovic on the 23rd of February. There are important achievements. I can tell you that implementation of one of the main segments of the Southern Gas Corridor – Trans-Anatolian Pipeline – is already around 65 percent complete. Another segment, which is called South-Caucasus pipeline is close to 80 percent. And implementation the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, which is called TAP, is around 34-35 percent. The development of the Shahdeniz Gas field, which is the biggest or one of the biggest fields in the world, is already 90 percent done. Our target is to deliver first new gas from Azerbaijan to the markets next year, and if there are no artificial delays in some of the partner countries, to complete this project by 2020.
Azerbaijan is a shareholder of all the four segments of the Southern Gas Corridor. Azerbaijan is an investor. We also raise money from the World Bank, from international financial institutions, Asian Development Bank, Asian Infrastructure Bank. We expect funds from EBRD, from EIB. So it's a really broad financial, infrastructure, technical, energy project, which was initiated by our country, and we are proud of that. Of course, the new format of cooperation between these countries creates absolutely new spirit of cooperation in the region. It creates interconnections, interdependence, predictability, reliability and partnership. So after the completion of the project the role of Azerbaijan as a reliable new and the only new source of natural gas for Europe will definitely grow and our relations with the European institutions will strengthen. Thank you.