Azerbaijan a reliable and important player on global energy scene - Polish foreign minister

Poland plans to discuss with Azerbaijan bilateral political, trade and energy issues, Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski said in a an interview with Trend on the eve of his visit to Baku.

"The agenda of my first visit to Azerbaijan which takes place in the year that we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the establishment of our diplomatic relations, covers both bilateral and EU-Azerbaijan political, trade and energy issues", he said.

According to him, a range of regional issues planned to be discussed also, especially in the context of the security and stability of the South Caucasus. "Since Azerbaijan is currently a member of the UN Security Council, my visit provides an interesting opportunity to exchange views on major international issues", Sikorski said.
European energy market prospects

According to Sikorski, Azerbaijan is a reliable and important player on the global energy scene.

He expressed his confidence that Azerbaijan's decision on choosing the route for its gas delivery to Europe decision will follow from a market-based due diligence.

"This decision should ultimately take into account the gas market potential and opportunities in the perspective of the next 10-15 years", the minister pointed out.


> Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkey, Georgia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia
Currently, a consortium for the development of Azerbaijani gas condensate field Shah Deniz is choosing a pipeline route for transporting gas to Europe. The final decision on the route, with Trans Adriatic Pipeline project and Nabucco West being only options, will be made in 2013.

Poland currently holds the Presidency of the Visegrad Group which comprises countries that symbolize successful market transformation and offer huge business opportunities, Sikorski said.

The demand for natural gas in the Central and Eastern Europe (Visegrad 4 + Bulgaria, Romania) could rise from 50 bcm to as high as 80 bcm in 2020, he stressed.

"Furthermore, within the North-South Corridor in Central and Eastern Europe, significant work has already been done to improve interconnectivity and develop key energy infrastructure. The first regional LNG terminal in Świnoujście is under construction and will be operational in 2014. We also certainly hope to extract shale gas in Poland", Sikorski said.

According to him, this gives a clear picture of the strong potential for creating an attractive and efficient gas market in the region in the nearest future.

"Our region offers opportunities for long, stable and reliable investments in the gas sector. It is now and soon will be even more - a region for unique business perspectives", minister said.

He also expressed a wish to invite his Azeri colleagues to visit Poland and see it with their own eyes.
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

Poland closely follows developments in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and is concerned about the recent series of incidents on the Line of Contact, Sikorski said.

"We support a peaceful solution to this protracted conflict that respects territorial integrity and other relevant rules of international law. Warsaw hopes that the basic principles worked out by the OSCE Minsk Group will be implemented", said the minister.

According to him, once an agreement is reached, the EU is ready to engage actively in managing the post-conflict situation.

The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. Armenian armed forces have occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan since 1992, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and 7 surrounding districts.

Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a ceasefire agreement in 1994. The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group - Russia, France, and the U.S. - are currently holding the peace negotiations.

Armenia has not yet implemented the U.N. Security Council's four resolutions on the liberation of the Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding regions.
Eastern Partnership

Thanks to the Eastern Partnership, Azerbaijan and its South Caucasus neighbours started negotiations of their EU Association Agreements in 2010, Sikorski said.

"We understand that each country moves at its own pace and while we are satisfied with the progress Azerbaijan has made, we encourage officials in Baku to continue their efforts to implementing European standards, including the area of human rights", he said.

He also expressed his hope that once Azerbaijan joins WTO, negotiations will start on the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, giving Azerbaijani business a chance to enter the Common Market.

Sikorski stressed that talks are underway on visa facilitation and readmission agreements, which started in March this year. "They are the first step towards a visa-free regime, as agreed in the Declaration of the Warsaw Eastern Partnership Summit last year", he said.