Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili were in Turkey on March 17 to attend a ceremony marking the start of the construction of the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP).
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hosted the two leaders in the town of Kars, where the foundation for the 1,850-kilometer pipeline was laid.
Erdogan said at the groundbreaking ceremony, "We plan to establish Turkey as the energy distribution hub of the region."
The pipeline aims initially to bring gas from Azerbaijan's Shah Deniz 2 offshore gas field through the existing South Caucasus Pipeline that runs through Georgia to Turkey where it will be pumped into TANAP.
According to plans, when TANAP is completed in 2018 it would connect to the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to bring the gas into Europe.
Estimates for the cost of building TANAP are somewhere between $10 billion to $11 billion. Azerbaijani state energy company SOCAR owns 58 percent of the project, Turkey Botas 30 percent, and BP has the remaining 12 percent.
The European Union is including TANAP as one of the routes in the EU's Southern Gas Corridor project.
Maros Sefcovic, the European Commission's vice president in charge of energy union, was also attending the ceremony in Kars.
TANAP will carry some 16 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas during its first phase, 10 bcm of which will go to Europe and 6 bcm to western Turkey.
Plans call for TANAP to eventually carry some 31 bcm of gas, which will require other countries to supply gas to the pipeline.
The EU has sponsored meetings about the Southern Gas Corridor with officials from Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan in an attempt to include the latter country as a supplier.
Officials from Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan have also met several times this year to discuss Turkmenistan's participation in shipping gas through Turkey to Europe.
Turkmenistan has the fourth-largest gas reserves in the world but does not have a pipeline to ship gas exports westward.
The EU and Azerbaijan have been discussing construction of a Trans-Caspian pipeline to bring Turkmen gas to Azerbaijan where it would be pumped into the pipeline network leading west.
With reporting by Trend.az, Interfax, and AFP