Erdogan said Saturday an agreement signed in June between Turkey and Azerbaijan to build the $7 billion Trans-Anatolian Pipeline connecting the gas fields of the Caspian Sea with European consumers will greatly boost Turkey's strategic importance, TRT Haber reported.
"By signing the document on implementation of TANAP, Azerbaijan and Turkey (turned into major players) in the world energy market," Erdogan said.
Azerbaijan Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov echoed the sentiments over the weekend, telling News.az the pipeline effort will play a major role in providing Europe a secure alternative to Russian supplies of natural gas, as well as promoting growth at home.
"It is safe to say that the Trans-Anatolian pipeline will be of great value as a reliable partner in energy security of Europe," he said. "In other words, all of projects which form an East-West energy corridor are successful strategic steps in the direction of peace and security and economic development in our region."
The 1,240-mile TANAP pipeline is designed to carry natural gas from the BP-controlled Shah Deniz field in the Azeri waters of the Caspian Sea through Turkey to its western borders at Greece or Bulgaria.
There it could link to Nabucco West, a scaled-down version of the larger $10.4 billion proposal, or BP's planned South East Europe Pipeline.
Project partners expect to have TANAP built before Shah Deniz starts production by 2017. First exports from the second phase of the Shah Deniz field are expected by 2018.
The European Union aims to break the Russian grip on the regional energy sector through natural gas transit projects included in the so-called Southern Corridor. Nabucco is among the pipelines in that project.
The TANAP project will come in four stages, with the first to be completed by 2018. Its capacity will be 16 billion cubic meters in 2020, 23 billion in 2020 and 31 billion by 2026, the Azerbaijan Press Agency reported.
Some 10 billion cubic meters of Azeri gas will be sold to Europe and 6 billion to Turkey in the first phase, officials say.
Azerbaijan's state-owned oil company SOCAR owns 80 percent of the TANAP pipeline, but intends to spin off 29 percent of its stake to Norway's Statoil, Britain's BP and France's Total.
Turkey's BOTAS and TPAO own the other 20 percent.
The proposal was ratified by the Azeri Parliament in November and signed Nov. 26 by Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev.
Mammadyarov indicated the TANAP pipeline is only the beginning of increased economic cooperation between his country and Ankara, pointing to SOCAR's investment in a new oil refinery to be built at Aliaga, Turkey, in a joint venture with Turcas Energy.
The $5 billion refinery project, located within the Petkim Petrochemical complex, is designed to process 10 million tons annually and 214,000 barrels of crude oil per day.
Production at the new facility is expected to begin in 2016 or 2017.
"The total investment in the Petkim and TANAP projects will be worth $15 (billion)-20 billion," Mammadyarov said.