As an independent nation, Azerbaijan has initiated a number of international projects. TANAP is the one that stands out because prior to that project all eyes were on a project called “NABUCCO”. However, it was eventually scrapped, with the Western countries to be blamed for its failure to materialize. Consequently, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, together with Turkey, launched discussions on a new project. Leadership of two brotherly nations decided to move forward with a new project called TANAP. Indeed, they were some that attempted to question its feasibility and undermine the confidence in the project. However, the political will of the leaders of Azerbaijan and Turkey prevented the project from stalling and ultimately, the inauguration of TANAP had taken place in Eskishehir, Turkey on 12 June. The geopolitical and historic importance of that event deserves great attention.
Geopolitical Reality and Political Will: Energy Aspect of Azerbaijan-Turkey Cooperation
Turkey’s city of Eskishehir witnessed a historic day on June the 12th. President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić and the leader of Northern Cypriots Mustafa Akıncı were in attendance for the inauguration of the Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline (TANAP). In their statements at the opening ceremony, the leaders spoke of geopolitical, economic and cultural impact of the project. The fact that remarks by the heads of state during the ceremony have captured the attention of the experts’ community is an indication of a notable process.
Speaking at the ceremony, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev had mentioned several aspects with regard to historic and geopolitical significance. He first spoke of Turkey’s geopolitical role on the global arena. President stressed that Azerbaijan was pleased with Ankara’s every achievement. Today, Turkey has evolved into one of the nations of global relevance that shape the international agenda. “Turkey’s strength is our strength and our strength is in our unity”. It is noteworthy for President Aliyev to highlight Turkey’s rising global geopolitical clout.
Most importantly, it means Azerbaijan is very pleased to see Turkey among the countries of global relevance, and not just because Turkey is a brotherly country for Azerbaijan. There is an emphasis here on Turkey being a country able to succeed as a nation that pursues a course of mutually beneficial cooperation. Muscle flexing and intimidation is preordained to be ineffective. Such an attitude is disastrous for the humankind. That is the reason why the nations that choose such tactics fail to perpetuate their success.
Turkey, in the meantime, is a country that is boosting its prominence through the policy of fairness and mutually beneficial cooperation. Azerbaijan is delighted about it because has also chosen the development course underpinned by equal and mutually beneficial cooperation. That is why – “Turkey’s strength is our strength” and “our strength is in our unity”. The key provision for developing mutually beneficial cooperation certainly is countries coming together. That would salvage the world from bigoted double standards and usher in prosperity.
Azerbaijan’s President views the very subject from a broad perspective. A visionary statesman – Ilham Aliyev – evaluates the Azerbaijan-Turkey relationship from the statehood prism and in the context of global realities. Rational and just approach is evident here. Azerbaijan forges relationships not based on momentary factors but on important statehood principles rooted in the international law. This is why according to the President Aliyev, “Turkey-Azerbaijan unity and brotherhood is a significant factor for our countries, peoples, region and Eurasia as well”.
President’s recognition of TANAP – yet another triumph for Azerbaijan and Turkey – as a historic project from the broad geopolitical perspective, is very important and well accepted. During the TANAP’s inauguration ceremony President Aliyev said, “Today we are writing the energy history of the 21st century together. This is a history of cooperation, a history of stability. Our energy projects bring stability to the region. All countries and companies participating in these projects are benefiting from them”.
Next Phase: Road Leading to New Projects
Some of the theses emphasized by Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey are more comprehensible in light of the abovementioned position stated by Ilham Aliyev. Mr. Erdogan referred to TANAP as the “Energy Silk Road”. According to him, it was made possible thanks to Azerbaijan and Turkey using the energy factor for not cultivating enmity but bringing cooperation, growth and prosperity to the peoples. He stressed that TANAP would boost implementation of many more large-scale projects. Therefore, the two brotherly nations are determined to continue the course of beneficial cooperation on a more expanded scale for the sake of stability and prosperity of the humankind.
It is no coincidence that the Presidents of both Turkey and Azerbaijan had underscored TANAP’s regional significance and its benefit for many peoples. They had reiterated the role of the unwavering political will of both leaders in the implementation of TANAP. The determination demonstrated by the two strategic partner nations have overcome the impediments that the opponents of this project tried to create. President Erdogan particularly thanked President Aliyev for that. In his statement during the ceremony Ilham Aliyev also highly appreciated Turkish leader’s merits.
TANAP has specific significance within the framework of the Southern Gas Corridor which is comprised of elements – Shahdeniz 2 Field, Southern Caucasus Gas Pipeline, the TANAP and the Trans-Adriatic (TAP) Gas Pipeline. The TAP is a natural gas pipeline being constructed between Turkey and Greece and its completion stands at 82 percent. This route extends from the Caspian Sea all the way to Europe.
Azerbaijan’s petroleum, or as Mr. Erdogan puts it, the “Caspian petroleum flows to Europe”. Several European countries are part of the project, alongside Azerbaijan and Turkey. Presidents of Ukraine and Serbia also had attended the opening ceremony. Ukraine’s President expressed his country’s eagerness to benefit from this project. He also stressed that such projects help reduce Europe’s energy dependency.
All of that highlights the geopolitical role that TANAP plays for Europe. Most importantly, TANAP diversifies Europe’s energy supply. Energy supply from multiple sources reduces the possibility of risky situations. And that is what makes TANAP so special in terms of Europe’s energy security. Moreover, TANAP serves as a bridge for fruitful cooperation between Europe and Asia. Its impact will absolutely generate the need to develop comparable cooperation formats. From that perspective, TANAP is also another motivation to pursue global cooperation.
Finally, according to experts, TANAP encourages more European nations to join the project. While its first phase transit capacity is 16 billion cubic meters, it has a potential for expansion to handle 31 billion cubic meters of natural gas. That means this project has a lot to offer. This may literally redraw the world’s energy map, enabling the emergence of a reliable energy model introduced thanks to supply diversification.
As President Aliyev had put it during the inauguration ceremony, “The Southern Gas Corridor is a project of energy security. Energy security is a matter of national security for any country. This is the meaning of the Southern Gas Corridor – energy security and diversification of energy resources. Azerbaijani gas will be supplied to the markets of Turkey and Europe by means of the Southern Gas Corridor and via new routes. The Southern Gas Corridor is a project of new routes and a new source. It serves the interests of energy diversification in the true sense of the word”. Thus, if TANAP is an end to a certain process, it is also a start of more to come. And this is what Azerbaijan-Turkey cooperation is all about!