Greece and Turkey on November 18 inaugurated a new natural gas pipeline that has begun to transport Azeri gas from the Caspian Sea to the Greek city of Komotini. The major infrastructure project, a joint Turkish-Greek venture, was opened at a ceremony attended by Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Also in attendance were the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman.
Mr. Bodman said: "The first link between Azerbaijan and gas suppliers in central Asia to European consumers...builds a critical new energy bridge between the East and the West."
Greece is positioning itself as an energy hub in Southeast Europe. In this role it will diversify energy sources, benefit in its capacity as an energy corridor, and become more attractive as an investment location.
The 300 million EURO pipeline is 295 kilometers long and will carry between 250,000 and 400,000 cubic meters of gas the first year. The volume of the pipeline flow is expected to triple by 2012. The pipeline is projected to extend to Italy and Western Europe via the Adriatic with the construction of a Greece-Italy natural gas pipeline, officially known as the Interconnector Greece-Italy (IGI), which is slated for completion in 2011 and will work in conjunction with the Greek-Turkish pipeline.
The conduit runs underwater from Karacabey to the Greek-Turkish border and to the Greek town of Komotini, where it links up to Greece's central network of natural gas pipelines, and a 970-kilometer pipeline running through Azerbaijan and Georgia brings the gas to Turkey.
The pipeline is expected to transport a large quantity of natural gas from the Caspian Sea region via Turkey and Greece to Italy and from there to the rest of Europe.
Mr. Karamanlis said "we can plan actions and carry out works that contribute to building a better future" and said that Greece, its government and all its political forces were "once again seeking good neighbourly relations, relations of cooperation, relations of continual rapprochement between the two peoples."
In his message, Mr. Erdogan expressed hope that cooperation between Greece and Turkey on this first major and important project would extend to political and cultural issues between the two countries. "The pipeline acts beneficially in our relations. We send from Evros today an important message of cooperation, through new corridors; a message for new opportunities and new possibilities; a message for growth, progress and prosperity of the two peoples; a message for a productive and fruitful tomorrow.”