SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — Azerbaijan’s president said Friday that his country is a reliable partner and will stick to an agreement to double gas exports to the European Union by 2027.
Speaking to reporters in Bulgaria's capital, President Ilhan Aliyev called a new gas interconnector with Greece “a historic achievement and an opportunity for Azeri gas to reach Europe in larger quantities.”
Aliyev was in Sofia for the official launch Saturday of a new pipeline that will supply natural gas from Azerbaijan to Bulgaria, whose vital supply of Russian gas was cut off in April amid the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
At the event on Saturday, he will join heads of state and governments from the region, as well as European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
The 182-kilometer (115-mile) pipeline is designed to run from the northeastern Greek city of Komotini to Stara Zagora in central Bulgaria. It is expected to start with an initial capacity of 3 billion cubic meters of gas a year, with the prospect of future expansion to 5 billion cubic meters.
Bulgarian President Rumen Radev stressed the importance of the new gas link not only for Bulgaria, but for the continent. “It decisively changes the energy map of Europe,” he said.
The desire for other sources of gas increased significantly after Moscow decided to turn its natural gas deliveries into a political weapon.
In late April, Russia cut off gas supplies to Bulgaria after it refused Moscow's demand to pay for the deliveries in rubles, Russia’s currency. Relations between the two former Soviet bloc allies have tanked in recent months, and last month Bulgaria ordered the expulsion of 70 Russian diplomats, triggering an angry response from Moscow.
Bulgaria, which has a contract for 1 billion cubic meters of Azeri gas, or one-third of the country's annual needs, wants to increase the volume by between a half-billion to 1 billion cubic meters more per year following the suspension of Russian gas flows were suspended.
Radev said he received a letter Thursday from gas system operators in Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, and Slovakia that offered to transport gas from Azerbaijan using the integrated networks of their countries. He said Bulgaria could host a summit of the four countries to discuss possibilities for such gas transfers.
The topic has become important after Russia said it would suspend some maintenance and repair work of a gas pipeline that supplies Turkey and countries like Serbia and Hungary.
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