TBILISI, Georgia, Dec. 16 (UPI) -- Energy security through nations that bridge the gap to Europe from the Caspian Sea is a critical issue for the NATO alliance, delegates in Georgia said.
NATO sponsored a working group in Georgia's capital, Tbilisi, to review energy security risks between consumers and potential and existing transit countries like Azerbaijan and Georgia.
NATO leaders and energy ministers gathered at the event said energy security is emerging as a fundamental component of broader security in a globalized world.
"The oil and gas pipelines, set through the strong Western support including the United States, European and other NATO member countries, have played a significant role in preserving the political independence and economic development of the countries in the region by keeping them linked to the international markets and in the focus of international western interests," Georgia's deputy energy minister, Mariam Valishvili, said.
Georgia joined the Energy Community Treaty during a meeting in Sarejevo after unanimous support from a council of European ministers in October. The treaty calls for an integrated natural gas market, "based on common interest and solidarity."
The country's military in 2008 launched an attack on the self-proclaimed republic of South Ossetia, sending ripples through the regional energy sector due to the proximity of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, the second longest in the world. Six years later, Georgia opened a transport terminal for a pipeline tied to infrastructure associated with the Shah Deniz gas field off the coast of Azerbaijan, a field that Europe views as a means to diversify a natural gas market dependent on Russia.
Next week, directors at the World Bank vote on a $1 billion loan to support gas pipeline development from Georgia that supports the regional Southern Gas Corridor.
Trans-Adriatic pipeline will start delivering gas from the Shah Deniz gas project offshore Azerbaijan to European consumers in 2019. TAP would connect to the Trans-Anatolian natural gas project running through Turkey to the Greek border.
Europe gets about a quarter of its gas needs met by Russia's Gazprom, which is accused of holding monopolies in the region.