Greece, Turkey open Europe's first supply of Caspian gas
By Christine Pirovolakis Nov 18, 2007, 13:55 GMT
Thessaloniki, Greece - The prime ministers of Greece and Turkey met along their heavily-militarised border littered with landmines to inaugurate a gas pipeline project on Sunday which will eventually ease Europe's dependency on Russian oil and gas.
The 300-kilometre pipeline project is seen as an important stepping stone towards improving bilateral relations between the two traditional foes and will provide the European Union with its first supply of natural gas from the Caspian region, breaking away from Russia and the unstable Middle East.
The Greek-Turkish pipeline will run from Bursa, Turkey to Komotini in Greece.
The pipeline will later be extended under the Adriatic Sea to Italy, connecting natural gas fields in Azerbaijan and Central Asia regions, to help supply energy-hungry markets in Europe by 2011.
Once the undersea link to Italy is completed, annual capacity will reach 11.6 billion cubic metres, some 70 per cent of which will be for the Italian market.
Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan shook hands in a symbolic meeting on a bridge for the inauguration of the pipeline, just above the Evros River, near the city of Alexandroupoli in northern Greece, which forms a natural frontier between the two countries.
'We are forming a bridge as an energy transit country,' Erdogan said in a speech at a ceremony later held at Ipsala on the Turkish side of the border.
'Turkey is fast moving to become the fourth energy supply route for natural gas to western Europe. There is a mutual dependence in energy policies which will help create a favourable atmosphere,' Erdogan added.
The President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and US Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman were also present at the inauguration ceremony, signalling Washington's support by Europe to seek alternative supplies of oil and gas.
Greek European and Foreign Policy Analysts Thanos Dokos said both Greece and Turkey were contributing to securing Europe's energy supply with this project, 'and thus eventually ease its dependence on oil and gas from Russia.'
Dokos said the project would also serve to strengthen relations between Turkey and Greece which still have unresolved issues involving territorial rights in the Aegean and the divided island of Cyprus.
'It is a great step for relations between the two countries and for stability in the region,' Karamanlis said at the ceremony.
Dokos said that while this project alone would not solve all the problems between Greece and Turkey, it would certainly help improve relations.
'What Greece is trying to do is to build up an interdependence with Turkey in business, banking and in the field of energy so that bilateral relations become more stable and will not be easily disrupted by certain isolated incidents,' Dokos added.
The area around Evros remains heavily littered with minefields on both sides of the border and soldiers still stand guard at military posts, a clear indication of the tensions that still exist between NATO neighbours, Greece and Turkey, which nearly went to war as recently as 1996.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur