On April 25 we left for Azerbaijan with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. After making some contacts in Azerbaijan, the presidential plane will head to Croatia. These two visits are crucial. Today, I would like to explain the importance of the visit to Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is a brother and an important ally to Turkey. It is a significant partner against Russia's aggressive and expansionist policies. Of course, Russia has considerable influence in Azerbaijan. The country always has to conform to Moscow's conditions and can protect its own power in the region as far as Moscow allows. But more than that, Turkey's support to Baku is of vital importance to the country for regional balance.
The Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline Project (TANAP) is one of the leading subjects of the Azerbaijani visit. Thanks to TANAP, gas from Azerbaijan will be transmitted to Europe through Turkey. Since the project can disrupt Russia's gas monopoly to a great extent, it is obvious that it disturbs Russia. Currently, the inclusion of Turkmen gas from Northern Iraq in the project is on the agenda. According to some recent news reports, some gas fields in Iraq could also be a part of TANAP.
TANAP CEO Saltuk Düzyol said that the bidding process for the part that extends from Eskişehir province to Thrace has finished. "We signed a $4.5 billion contract excluding the sea transmission. The project is currently at the point of no return and progressing very rapidly. We are exerting the utmost efforts to make sure that it will be completed by June 2018."
During Erdoğan's visit to Azerbaijan, some crucial steps might be taken concerning this. As some may remember, this visit was delayed twice due to the terrorist attacks in Ankara. I questioned the strangeness of this coincidence on a TV program and indicated the possibility of Russia's role in it. As Erdoğan could not visit Azerbaijan due to the attacks, Azerbaijani President İlham Aliyev paid a visit to Turkey instead.
The TANAP is also a great move against the Nabucco-West pipeline, which is to keep Turkey out of the game. Various positive developments have also taken place while the project is in progress. While the World Bank is about to enter the game with its contribution plans for TANAP, World Bank authorities said: "We are considering being a part of the project, which has a very strategic place in the energy sector. We will aid funding BOTAŞ [Turkey's state-run Petroleum Pipeline Corporation]. We are planning to fund not the entire project, but a part of it corresponding to $1 billion. Also, we are cooperating with the European Investment Bank."
In a nutshell, the TANAP, which cost $9 billion and is of critical importance to decreasing Europe's dependence on Russia and to meet Turkey's increasing gas demand, is progressing rapidly, and the visit to Azerbaijan might pave the way for new steps in this regard.