|Azerbaijan's leader said on Friday he is under no pressure from Russia to shun the Nabucco gas pipeline, the European Union's attempt to reduce its reliance on Russian supplies.|
| Addressing a panel on European energy security at the World Economic Forum in Davos, President Ilham Aliyev said he was giving equal priority to the Nabucco pipeline -- which pumps Caspian Sea gas to Europe via Georgia and Turkey -- as to other projects involving his Caucasian country's neighbors.|
EU diplomats have said Moscow and its gas monopoly Gazprom have spared no effort to try to undermine the Nabucco project, notably by forging ahead with a $25 billion alternative pipeline plan known as South Stream to deliver gas to southern Europe through a pipeline on the Black Sea bed.
Nabucco, which has faced delays over supply talks, aims to transport up to 31 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas a year from the Caspian region and Middle East to Europe via Turkey and the Balkans.
“Frankly speaking, I do not feel any special attention from Russia to this project,” he said. “Maybe you in Europe feel it more. In our relations with Russia, there is full understanding that both countries should be fully independent in their energy policy,” Aliyev said.
The president signed a major political deal with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on January 13 for the export of Azeri natural gas to help curb Europe's reliance on Russia, the continent's traditional main supplier.
Barroso said at the signing ceremony in Baku: "This is a major breakthrough."
Aliyev said Azerbaijan was also selling gas at market prices to Russia for export to Europe, "therefore we are totally free from any kind of interference, any kind of pressure."
His country has been pumping oil to Turkey's Mediterranean coast via the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline for the last decade thanks to a project promoted by the United States for political reasons in the 1990s to isolate Iran and bypass Russia.
"We strongly support the Southern Corridor," the president said, referring to the project to build more pipelines connecting the Caspian Sea with European customers.
Nabucco's shareholders are Austria's OMV, Hungary's MOL, Romania's Transgaz, Bulgaria's Bulgargaz, Turkey's Botas and Germany's RWE.