Ankara opposes GdF participation in pipeline project

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey opposes Gaz de France’s inclusion in the Nabucco gas pipeline project because of France’s stances on Armenian accusations of genocide and Ankara’s EU bid, a senior energy official said yesterday. His comments to Reuters, reiterating Turkey’s previously stated opposition, followed expressions of support from Romania’s president and Hungarian firm MOL for GdF’s involvement in the project that would bring Caspian gas to Europe. The -5 billion pipeline is designed to pass via Turkey and the Balkans to Austria and is a key plank of the European Union’s plans to reduce its dependence on Russian gas imports. It is planned for completion in 2012. The Turkish official, who declined to be named, said that in normal conditions Turkey would be glad to accept GdF as a partner, given its experience and success in the energy sector. «Turkey avoids using energy as a political instrument; it has no such aim,» he said. «But France has unacceptable positions on the incidents of 1915, which should be left to historians, and on the European Union and other joint projects.» Ankara has previously said it opposed GdF’s involvement in the project because of the French National Assembly’s approval of a bill making it a crime to deny Armenians suffered a genocide at the hands of Ottoman Turks in 1915-16. Ankara denies the killings were a systematic genocide. Turkey is also upset about French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s opposition to Ankara’s quest for European Union membership. Sarkozy says the EU cannot absorb Turkey, a relatively poor Muslim country with 70 million people, and says Brussels should instead negotiate a «privileged partnership.» The Nabucco consortium is equally owned by oil and gas companies in the transit countries – Austria’s OMV, Hungary’s MOL, Romania’s Transgaz, Bulgaria’s Bulgargaz and Turkey’s Botas. The Nabucco consortium on Tuesday confirmed German utility RWE will join the project. The Turkish Energy Ministry official said six partners was enough for the project but that a seventh partner, from a gas-producing country, could join. Iran has stated its desire to supply gas to the Nabucco project. «We are aiming to enter the European market to export gas and the more partners we have in this long route of passage, the faster it will be. Of course we appreciate that Turkey is the first part of this route,» Hojjatollah Ghanimifard, international affairs director at the National Iranian Oil Company, told Reuters. The Turkish official said Turkey was in favor of Turkey’s Botas constructing the pipelines as far as Ankara, from where Turkey wants the Nabucco project to begin. It could construct these pipelines in cooperation with other companies, he said.