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Azerbaijan Criticizes Turkey Over Gas Prices, To Seek New Routes

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev
BAKU -- Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev says Turkey pays too little for natural gas and Baku will seek other routes to deliver its gas to Europe, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

Aliyev said at a cabinet meeting in Baku on October 16 that Turkey is paying Azerbaijan only one-third of world-market prices and demands high transit fees. The meeting was shown on national television.

Aliyev said such a practice is "illogical" and "no country in the world would accept these terms."

His comments follow sharp criticism from Baku over improved relations between its erstwhile ally Turkey and Armenia, with whom it is in conflict with over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Aliyev also alluded to the Western-backed Nabucco pipeline project to bring natural gas from the Caspian Sea to Austria via Turkey, saying: "unresolved transit fees and unacceptable demands in reality can result in the disruption of a project of world importance."

He added that "for the last two years we were trying to resolve this issue in a business-like and friendly manner, but our patience is exhausted."

Aliyev said the current offer from Turkey made during negotiations since April "will never be accepted by Azerbaijan." Aliyev added that Azerbaijan signed a contract with Russian gas giant Gazprom two days ago and will begin selling gas to Russia early next year, saying that "there is no transit country between Russia and Azerbaijan."

He also said that there are no limits to how much gas Azerbaijan can offer to Russia.

While he mentioned Russia as one possible route for Azerbaijani gas, he said another option is selling gas to southern neighbor Iran, which he noted buys gas from Turkmenistan.

The Azerbaijani president listed another option for exporting gas to the European Union "through Georgia and Black Sea ports," saying that Baku has had extensive talks with Romania and "can work with Bulgaria."

Aliyev said Azerbaijan is ready to start the second phase of its Shadeniz 2 project, which will bring an additional $20 billion in investment. But he said the country has been unable to launch the project because of unresolved transit issues with Turkey.

Despite the deal with Gazprom, Aliyev repeated that Baku signed a deal with the EU on energy cooperation in 2006 that it intends to fulfill.