New gas pipeline could heat up Azeri-Russian rivalry

Azerbaijan’s ties with Russia, already strained by conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, face further pressure from the launch later this year of a gas pipeline that is poised to squeeze Moscow’s diminished gas sales to Europe and Turkey

Armenia and Azerbaijan in armed conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh region

di Olesya Astakhova, Vladimir Soldatkin

Moscow - Azerbaijan’s ties with Russia, already strained by conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, face further pressure from the launch later this year of a gas pipeline that is poised to squeeze Moscow’s diminished gas sales to Europe and Turkey.

The $40 billion Southern Gas Corridor will draw from Azerbaijan’s giant Shah Deniz II field in the Caspian Sea and has the backing of the European Commission as it seeks to curb Europe’s dependence on Russian energy.
 
It also has the support of Turkey, which has sided with Baku in the deadliest fighting since the 1990s between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
 
The fighting has spread to Azeri cities close to the Southern Gas Corridor, but BP BP.L in Azerbaijan, part of a consortium of companies involved in the project, told Reuters it was going ahead as planned.
 
“As of now, all our business operations in the region continue as normal and our plans remain unchanged,” a BP spokeswoman said.
 
At the same time, Russian ambitions to expand its pipeline capacity to Europe risk being thwarted by U.S. sanctions.
 
Analysts say Moscow has good relations with Armenia and Azerbaijan and a pragmatic relationship with Turkey that has overcome past crises and differing stances on Syria.
 
Competition for gas sales, however, is particularly unwelcome as Russia’s economy suffers because of the impact on oil and gas demand of the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
Over the last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin has spoken repeatedly to the Armenian prime minister, but not to the leaders of Azerbaijan or Turkey.
 
 
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