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Azerbaijan signs gas agreement with Italy

By M. Alkhazashvili

(Translated by Diana Dundua)
Monday, December 17
Azerbaijani Minister of Economic Development Heydar Babayev and his Italian counterpart Pier Luigi Bersani signed an agreement on December 12 in Baku to export natural gas to Italy, the news agency Regnum reports.

The first installment of natural gas will be made, via Turkey and Greece, by 2012 and the total annual export will eventually reach 8 billion cubic meters, according to the agreement.

“It is one of the priorities of Azerbaijan’s foreign policy to develop and deepen economic relations with Italy,” the FINANCIAL news agency quoted Babayev as saying. Bersani said the agreement will “be a bridge linking Europe to Azerbaijan and Central Asia.”

Azerbaijan is keen to fend off competition from Iranian and Russian gas suppliers to Europe. In June, President Ilham Aliyev announced that Azerbaijan will increase its gas output from 12 billion cubic meters per year to 16 billion cubic meters by 2008, at the 14th annual Caspian Oil and Gas Exhibition and Conference.

In November a Turkey–Greece interconnector pipeline was inaugurated, providing another route for Azerbaijani gas to penetrate the European market.