BAKU, July 11 (AFP) - President Heydar Aliyev said Tuesday that Azerbaijan could no longer wait for a US-backed pipeline for Caspian Sea gas and as a result had begun its own talks with Turkey to export Azeri gas.
In a meeting with Turkey's newly elected President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, Aliyev said that Azerbaijan had originally planned to ship its own gas production through a 2,000-kilometer (1,240-mile) trans-Caspian gas pipeline.
"Turkey needs gas. Unfortunately, the project is being delayed and we don't even know what stage it is at," Aliyev said. "Now we must take measures ourselves to export our gas to Turkey."
The two billion dollar-plus trans-Caspian pipeline is planned to transport about 16 billion cubic meters (bcm) of Turkmen gas to Turkish markets, with capacity for another 14 bcm that could come from either Turkmen or Azeri gas fields.
Talks on the pipeline have reached an impasse, as Turkmenistan's president, Saparmurat Niyazov, is reported to be unhappy with terms of financing and the price offered for his country's gas.
Azerbaijan says it wants to sign a contract as soon as possible to win a place in the highly competitive Turkish market. Baku's off-shore Shah Deniz field could hold up up to one trillion cubic meters of gas.
Azerbaijani officials have said they do not expect the trans-Caspian pipeline to be ready before 2006, although Baku wants to export its gas by the end of 2002.
Sezer said that the two countries decided to begin talks for a gas delivery contract. The Turkish leader is making his first visit to Ankara's closest ally in the volatile Caucasus and will stay just over 24 hours.
Valekh Askerov of Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR said that Azerbaijani, Turkish and Georgian experts met Tuesday in the Azeri capital for the first time to discuss terms for the export and sale of the gas.
Aleskerov added that Baku had already signed a protocol with Georgia as a transit country and that Tbilisi was interested in also purchasing Azeri gas.
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )