WASHINGTON, March 31 (UPI) -- A natural gas artery aimed at transferring Azeri natural gas to Europe wouldn't have advanced without strong U.S. support, Azerbaijan's president said.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hosted Azeri President Ilham Aliyev in the White House to discuss Azerbaijan's key geopolitical influence. Situated at the bridge between East and West, Kerry said the country has a strategic role to play in advancing regional energy security issues.
Azerbaijan is rich in natural gas reserves, which Europe sees as a source of diversification for an energy sector dominated in large part by Russia. A series of pipelines dubbed the Southern Corridor are planned for delivery of natural gas from the Shah Deniz reserve basin in the Azeri waters of the Caspian Sea.
"We are very grateful to the government of United States for its strong support in implementation of this project," the Azeri president said. "Frankly speaking, without that support, it may have taken much more time and effort to implement the project."
During his visit to Baku in February, U.S. special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs Amos J. Hochstein met with regional energy ministers and representatives from the State Oil Co. of Azerbaijan to discuss the project, describing it as a "long-standing" priority for the U.S. government.
A subsidiary of British energy company BP in Azerbaijan said progress on gas developments meant to aid European energy security was ahead of schedule. More than 500 billion cubic feet of natural gas per year is slated for exports from Shah Deniz to the European market through a network of 2,100 miles of pipelines by late 2018.
"This is a very important step with respect to Europe's long-term strategic interests, and frankly, to try to diversify the sourcing of energy, which is important," the U.S. secretary of state said.