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Turkey Says Azeri Gas Talks Stumble Over Armenia

Talks between Turkey and Azerbaijan over securing gas for Europe have temporarily halted due to disagreements over Turkey's attempts to normalise relations with Azeri arch-enemy Armenia, Turkey said on March 23.

The talks over gas supplies from Azerbaijan's Shakh Deniz II gas project are crucial to help filling the European Union-backed Nabucco pipeline project, which aims to reduce Europe's dependence on Russian gas.

But Muslim Turkish attempts to normalise relations with Christian Armenia, which still occupies territory claimed by Ankara's traditional ally Azerbaijan, have put a temporary stop to the talks.

"We have not talked with the Azeris for between a month and a month and a half, the fundamental issue here is politics," said Energy Minister Taner Yildiz, speaking at a news conference.

Turkey signed protocols late last year with Armenia which agreed to establish diplomatic relations and reopen their frontier, overcoming a century of hostility stemming from the World War One mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman forces.

The Turkish Armenian peace accords however have been slowed as both sides accuse each other of trying to re-write the texts, and tensions between the two countries have increased since the United States passed a resolution branding the 1915 killings as genocide.

Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993 in a move of solidarity with Azerbaijan during the conflict over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Yildiz said it was unclear whether a previous offer to transit the Azeri gas to Europe at less than markets prices had been accepted.


Yildiz also said fundamental issues regarding the building of a nuclear power plant would have to be worked out with Russia by May.

Turkey wants to build at least two nuclear power plants to reduce dependence on foreign energy imports and cover a looming shortfall in electricity.

Energy Ministry sources have said the government may forego a tender for one of the plants and hand the project to a Russian-Turkish consortium after a previous nuclear tender, won by a Russian-Turkish partnership, was annulled over power pricing issues.

"The fundamental issues regarding the building of a nuclear power station with Russia need to be resolved by May," said Yildiz.

Yildiz also said that he hoped to boost crude oil supplies via tthe Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline from Iraq to 70 million tonnes per year from a current annual 25 million tonnes.

Source: Reuters

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