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Azerbaijan key to European energy needs

WASHINGTON, July 2 (UPI) -- Azerbaijan is an important partner to the United States in terms of energy security and diversification, said the U.S. special envoy for Eurasian energy.

The envoy, Richard Morningstar, spoke to the U.S.-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce on the importance of the so-called Southern Corridor of oil and gas transit networks.

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Europe sees the Southern Corridor as a modern-day Silk Road. It includes the $10.7 billion Nabucco pipeline, as well as transit networks in the Caspian Sea and other energy transport arteries.

"We do think that the Southern Corridor is tremendously important," said Morningstar.

Europe sees Azerbaijan as a key partner for the Nabucco pipeline, which is part of a regional effort to ease a dependency on Russian gas. A recent deal between Moscow and Baku on gas supplies, however, may undermine efforts to push forward with Nabucco.

Nevertheless, Morningstar said Nabucco is "critically important" for European energy diversification, saying Azerbaijan was the foundation for that effort.

He further stressed the importance of Turkish relations with Azerbaijan in terms of gas deals in the Azeri Shah Deniz gas field.

"It is important for Turkey and Azerbaijan reach an agreement, because Azeri gas and Shah Deniz too are an absolute prerequisite to any southern quarter pipelines," he said.

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