06 April 2007

1577) Turkey Blocks Gdf Talks In 'Genocide' Row

While so-called Armenian genocide resolution is on the U.S House of Representatives agenda, Turkey has suspended talks with Gaz de France over a pipeline project that would bring Caspian natural gas to Europe in reaction to a French resolution on so-called Armenian genocide. . .

The Nabucco pipeline will transport gas from Central Asia, through Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary to Austria. Start of the pipeline construction is scheduled for 2008. The first gas shipments have to be made by 2012. The planned pipeline would reduce Europe's dependency on Russian gas.

Turkey strongly opposes the claims that its predecessor state, the Ottoman government, caused the Armenian deaths in a planned genocide. The Turkish government has said the toll is wildly inflated and that Armenians were killed or displaced in civil unrest during the empire's collapse and conditions of World War I. Ankara's proposal to Yerevan to set up a joint commission of historians to study the disputed events is still awaiting a positive response from the Armenian side. After French lawmakers voted last October to make it a crime to deny that the claims were genocide, Turkey said it would suspend military relations with France.

A top energy minister official said The New Anatolian yesterday that Ankara will suspend partnership with all French corporations including Gaz de France. "This move covers all public tenders. This move also should be understood by other countries which are planning to recognize so-called Armenian claims as genocide," the source added.

Reports said that Ankara will suspend partnership by Gaz de France until the French presidential elections. "We will decide according to policies to be followed after the elections," reports quoted a senior energy ministry official.

According to the source, BOTAS, Turkey's official energy agency, does not want to see French corporations including Gas de France as partner in all energy sectors.

Energy Minister Hilmi Guler declined to comment on the issue of Gaz de France. He stated that Ankara attaches great importance to the Nabucco project, adding that they realized the first phase of this project. Turkey is in an important position in meeting Europe's gas need and we are aware of this," he added.

Gaz de France had no immediate comment.

Austrian oil and gas group OMV heads the consortium planning to build the pipeline. Bulgargaz, Transgaz from Romania, MOL of Hungary and and Turkey's BOTAS are also partners in the project.

French Foreign Ministry stated yesterday that Turkish counterparts hasn't confirmed yet on suspension of talks with Gaz de France. Spokesman of the French Foreign Ministry Jean-Baptiste Mattei has declined to give further information.
The New Anatolian
06 April 2007



Turkey has suspended talks with Gaz de France over a pipeline project that would bring Caspian natural gas to Europe in reaction to a French bill on the mass killings of Armenians during Ottoman rule, senior Turkish energy officials told Reuters on Thursday.

Nabucco is a 4.6-billion euro ($6.14 billion) project to transport natural gas from Turkey to Austria, passing through Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary. The planned pipeline would reduce Europe's dependency on Russian gas.

France angered Ankara last year when its national assembly passed a bill making it a crime to deny that the moass killings of Armenians during the fall of the Ottoman Empire amounted to genocide.

"We will suspend partnership by Gaz de France until the French presidential elections. We will decide according to policies to be followed after the elections," a senior energy ministry official who declined to be named said.

The four other countries involved in the project, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary, have already approved partnership with Gaz de France in the project, which will transmit Caspian and Iranian gas to Western Europe, bypassing Russia. Austrian oil and gas group OMV heads the consortium planning to build the pipeline. Bulgargaz, Transgaz from Romania, MOL of Hungary and Turkey's Botas are also partners in the project. The consortium has been seeking a sixth partner for a while.

Gaz de France had no immediate comment and French foreign ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei said in a statement the ministry had not yet received any confirmation.

Finalizing a deal to start building the pipeline has already run into trouble after negotiations with France's Total for a stake collapsed earlier this year. A senior OMV executive said last month a final investment decision had been further delayed well into 2008 as negotiations to win a sixth investor dragged on.

The project has also been criticized for taking too long to plan with no reliable timetable existing for gas suppliers. It faces a series of hurdles, including financing, possible steel bottlenecks and pending EU permits for the pipeline. If construction of the 3,300 km (2,050 mile) pipeline starts in 2008, it could begin operating in 2011. It could transport annually 25.5 to 31 billion cubic meters of Caspian gas to Europe by 2020.

Turkey, seeking EU membership, strongly denies claims by Armenia and its supporters that the Ottoman Empire committed a systematic genocide against about 1.5 million Armenians during World War I.

Ankara says that figure is greatly exaggerated. It says large numbers of both Christian Armenians and Muslim Turks died because of inter-ethnic fighting, famine and disease. The Turkish armed forces froze bilateral ties with its NATO ally France due to the National Assembly bill. The bill still has to be approved by the Senate to become law.

06.04.2007
Reuters Ankara

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