BAKU, Azerbaijan, April 16 (UPI) -- Europe needs a strong energy partnership with Azerbaijan for the Nabucco gas pipeline, the European energy commissioner said in Baku.
Gunther Oettinger, the energy commissioner for the European Union, said energy-rich Azerbaijan has the potential to establish a strong working relationship in the European energy sector.
"Europe needs import of energy sources," the Azeri news agency News.Az quoted him as saying. "In this sense Azerbaijan can be both the supplier of raw materials and ready production to the EU market."
Oettinger added that the Nabucco pipeline was of "special importance" to the European community.
The Nabucco pipeline is designed to move 1.1 trillion cubic feet of gas per year to the European community. First gas is scheduled to flow by 2014.
Europe aims to break the Russian stranglehold on the regional energy sector through the Nabucco gas pipeline. The 2,000-mile pipeline has substantial political support, though supplier nations have been slow to make firm commitments to the project.
Oettinger ruled out a role for Iran and Iraq as potential gas suppliers to the Nabucco project "at the moment," stressing that Iran "will not be able to act as an exporter."