Bulgaria seeks natural gas conduit with Turkey
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish and Azerbaijani flags wave in front of Petkim. their joint refinery. The two countries are near an agreement on construction of the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP) that will carry natural gas to Europe, which may also benefit Bulgaria.Bulgaria is seeking a deal with Turkey to construct a short pipeline connecting the countries’ domestic gas networks, as an alternative to gas from Russia, on which the Balkan country currently depends, diplomatic sources said.
The issue is expected to be high on the agenda when Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov visits Ankara on March 20, accompanied by eight other ministers.
The project, which the European Union is ready to finance as part of efforts to diversify energy supplies, is intended to carry Azerbaijani gas to Bulgaria in emergency cases, the sources said, stressing Sofia had already reached a preliminary agreement with Baku to buy at least one billion cubic meters of gas annually.
The conduit would be about 80 kilometers long and would connect the Bulgarian and Turkish domestic gas networks from Turkey’s northwestern Thrace region to Bulgaria’s southern city of Haskovo.
The talks are still at an early stage, but a memorandum of understanding could be signed during Borisov’s visit if progress is achieved, the sources said.
A Turkish energy ministry official said Ankara was not opposed to the project in principle but doubted it would be considered a priority.
The significance of the issue for Bulgaria was underlined when its Economy and Energy Minister Traicho Traikov resigned late March 15. Borisov cited lack of progress on Bulgaria’s plans to diversify its energy sources as one of the reasons for the resignation, as he named Traikov’s deputy Delyan Dobrev his successor.
Borisov’s visit to Ankara will mark the inauguration of a High-Level Cooperation Mechanism between Turkey and Bulgaria, a platform of regular discussions that Turkey has also launched with Greece, Russia, Iraq and Syria.
While Ankara’s ties with Baghdad and Damascus have since chilled, Borisov’s visit comes in the wake of a landmark declaration adopted by Bulgarian Parliament in January that condemned the assimilation campaign the country’s Turkish minority suffered under communist rule. He is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and President Abdullah Gül.