ANKARA – Turkey will take 15 percent of the natural gas passing through a pipeline from Azerbaijan’s Shakh Deniz field to Italy, or 1.74 billion cubic meters (bcm) annually, Turkish Energy Minister Hilmi Guler said yesterday. Guler said Turkey will become a gas trader for the first time, rather than just a transit country, under the latest pipeline deal between Turkey, Greece and Italy. «Now we will be adding a commercial concept to our role of transit country,» Guler told Reuters in a telephone interview. On Thursday, ministers from Turkey, Greece and Italy signed an agreement in Rome on construction of the pipeline that will connect Azerbaijan’s Shakh Deniz gas to Italy and is expected to cost 400 million euros. The South European gas pipeline deal, under which Turkey will sell gas, is the second major agreement the country has signed recently to secure its role as a regional energy hub and natural gas trader. Guler said the price and amount of gas to be sold would be determined later, and that the price Turkey would pay for the gas would depend on the fee Turkey charges as a transit country. The agreement is also seen as an attempt to counter Russian attempts to export its natural gas to Europe through a pipeline under the Black Sea. Earlier this month Ankara signed an agreement with Tehran to develop part of Iran’s South Pars gas field and sell gas it produces from there. That deal came weeks after Russia announced that Gazprom had joined with Italian energy company Eni to build a 31 bcm capacity pipeline under the Black Sea that would enter Bulgaria and travel on to Italy. The South European gas pipeline will carry exclusively Shakh Deniz gas in its first phase and will reach a capacity of 11.6 bcm. Supported by the European Union, the pipeline will begin delivering gas supplies to Greece in August. Eventually the pipeline will be extended to Italy, where it will join up with a regional gas distribution network.