ANKARA - Turkish Daily News
Energy Minister Hilmi Güler announced yesterday that Ankara had not stepped back from signing a long-awaited natural gas agreement with Iran. The deal, setting the groundwork for a new natural gas pipeline with an annual capacity of 40 billion cubic meters, could not be completed during Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to Istanbul last week, creating speculation of U.S interference.
�I will go to Tehran in 15 days. Foreign Minister Ali Babacan will also be there. We will continue important negotiations during the month. We hope to clarify results from our initiatives during this period,� Güler said, speaking at a press conference in Ankara. He also said Thursday he would deliver Turkey's response regarding the construction of three natural gas fields in Iran, the key element of the agreement.
Tehran recently proposed an investment model for the natural gas fields; however the Turkish Petrol Incorporation Partnership, or TPAO, objected to several aspects. Ankara's proposal, in line with recommendations from the TPAO, will be evaluated by Iran once again.
No way to persuade US
Washington had conveyed strong opposition to a natural gas deal between Ankara and Tehran prior to Ahmadinejad's visit. International media reported that Ankara froze the deal due to harsh reaction from the Bush administration. Güler denied allegations but admitted that there is no way to change the United States' mind on the issue bilateral relations with Iran.
However, Güler added that Turkey, as an independent country, needed to give priority to its own national interests in terms of energy relations with Tehran. �Turkey is a country dependent on natural gas; we protect our interests here. We have to make the relevant investments. There are technical matters we shall discuss. There are no simple solutions to difficult questions, but our priority is security of energy supply,� he added.
He also noted that no findings of sabotage had been made regarding the fire on the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan pipeline, revealing that production would be re-started in a few days.