ANKARA – Turkey has not officially suspended talks with Gaz de France (GDF) over the Nabucco pipeline project to bring Caspian gas to Europe, the energy minister said yesterday, but energy officials said Ankara had also begun talks with other firms on joining Nabucco. Senior Turkish energy officials had said last week talks with the French company had been halted in protest at a French bill making it a crime to deny genocide was committed against Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks during World War One. «Nabucco is an extremely important project for us and the process is continuing normally. Gaz de France has not been suspended from the project,» Energy Minister Hilmi Guler told reporters. But he said economic, strategic and political issues, including the French bill, would be taken into account when selecting the sixth partner for the project. A senior Turkish energy official, who declined to be named, told Reuters the government had been pressured to tone down its statement on GDF following political and diplomatic lobbying. The -4.6 billion project envisages transporting natural gas from Turkey to Austria, passing through Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary and would reduce Europe’s dependency on Russian gas. The four other countries have already approved a partnership with Gaz de France in the project. Austrian oil and gas group OMV heads the consortium planning to build the pipeline. Bulgargaz, Transgaz from Romania, MOL of Hungary and Turkey’s state-run Botas are also partners in the project. Botas opposed Gaz de France becoming the sixth partner and the company’s senior officials would raise this position during a meeting with Nabucco partners in Hungary on April 25-26, another senior Turkish energy official told Reuters. The planned pipeline – a project backed by the EU and the United States – would reduce Europe’s dependency on Russian gas but has already hit several hurdles.