revista presei 27 aprilie

2010/04/27

ziare.com: South Stream, o garantie ca Romania nu va mai ramane in frig?

Construirea South Stream va fi o garantie ca tari precum Romania, Bulgaria sau Italia nu vor mai ramane in intuneric si frig, a declarat, intr-o conferinta comuna cu Vladimir Putin, Silvio Berlusconi, referindu-se la criza gazului din 2009, provocata de un diferend comercial intre Rusia si Ucraina.

La randul sau, premierul rus Vladimir Putin a anuntat ca proiectul de gazoduct, care va transporta gaz din Rusia catre Europa, pe sub Marea Neagra, va fi finalizat in 2015, relateaza DPA.

Rusia este dispusa sa ajute Italia in programul de dezvoltare a energiei nucleare, a declarat luni seful Guvernului rus, dupa discutiile cu omologul sau italian. In 2008, guvernul conservator al lui Berlusconi a anuntat ca va reintroduce centralele nucleare in Italia, la 21 de ani dupa ce au fost inchise, in urma unui referendum.

Dar acest plan a intampinat o opozitie puternica din partea comunitatilor si liderilor politici locali, care nu vor centrale nucleare in zonele lor.

Putin a promis o “cooperare ampla din partea Rusiei”, daca proiectele nucleare ale Italiei vor fi realizate. Aceasta cooperare va include finantare, tehnologie si asistenta in ceea ce priveste reziduurile nucleare, potrivit premierului rus.

Berlusconi a spus ca lucrarile la prima centrala nucleara din Italia vor incepe in 2013.

Discutiile de luni s-au concentrat si pe relatiile economice bilaterale, Berlusconi subliniind ca criza financiara globala a dus la o scadere cu 30% de comertului dintre Italia si Rusia. “Speram ca refacerea (economica – n.red.), care prezinta semne incurajatoare, va duce la o revenire la nivelul (relatiilor – n.red.) comerciale din 2008”, a spus el.

Berlusconi si Putin au prezidat semnarea unui acord prin care Rusia va sustine reconstructia a doua monumente in orasul italian Aquila, distrus anul trecut de un cutremur.

Putin, care a ajuns in Italia duminica seara, si-a petrecut noaptea in resedinta privata a lui Berlusconi din apropiere de Milano.

Hotnews: Berlusconi dupa intrevederea cu Putin: “Romania nu va mai ramane pe intuneric si frig”

Premierul italian Silvio Berlusconi s-a intalnit luni in regiunea Brianza, langa Milano, cu primul ministru rus Vladimir Putin. Cei doi au vorbit si despre proiectul South Stream, prin care gazul rusesc ar putea ajunge si in Peninsula.
“Cu South Stream avem o garantie ca tari importante, precum Romania, Bulgaria si Italia nu vor mai ramane in frig si intuneric”, a declarat Berlusconi dupa intalnirea cu fostul presedinte al Rusiei, in cadrul unei conferinte de presa. Berlusconi a facut referire la intreruperile care au avut loc in trecut pe teritoriul Ucrainei si care au afectat furnizarea de gaz catre Italia. “Ucraina este o tara care nu are o stabilitate politica care sa ne asigure linistea”, a precizat premierul italian.

In proiect este implicata si Enel, compania de gaz italiana. Berlusconi a declarat ca cele doua companii, Enel si Gazprom, isi vor extinde colaborarea si in alte tari din afara Europei.

El a adaugat ca lucrarile pentru realizarea South Stream vor demara in primul semestru al anului 2012.

Italia este, impreuna cu Germania, unul din principalii importatori de gaz rusesc. In 2008, Italia a importat din Rusia 22,9 miliarde de metri cubi  de gaz (adica  26% din consumul total national).

money.ro: Consiliul Concurenţei investighează înfiinţarea Electra şi Hidroenergetica

Consiliul Concurenţei a declanşat o investigaţie privind înfiinţarea celor două companii energetice naţionale, Electra şi Hidroenergetica, pentru a evalua impactul acestei operaţiuni asupra pieţelor afectate.

“Vrem să analizăm compatibilitatea celor două companii cu un mediu concurenţial normal, având în vedere că în urma restructurării sectorului de producţie a energiei există premisele creării sau consolidării unor poziţii dominante. De asemenea, funcţionarea noilor structuri poate duce la restrângerea, înlăturarea sau denaturarea semnificativă a concurenţei pe piaţa comercializării şi furnizării de energie electrică”, a declarat preşedintele Consiliului Concurenţei, Bogdan Chiriţoiu, într-un comunicat transmis, luni, agenţiei MEDIAFAX.

Autoritatea pentru Concurenţă va lua o decizie cu privire la înfiinţarea celor două companii în cel mult cinci luni de la data la care notificările au devenit efective.

Electra va fi formată prin fuziunea Complexurilor energetice Rovinari, Turceni şi Craiova, cu Societatea Naţională a Lignitului Oltenia, Nuclearelectrica, Hidroserv Râmicu Vâlcea şi cu sucursalele Hidroelectrica din Râmnicu Vâlcea, Sibiu şi Târgu Jiu.
Hidroenergetica va cuprinde sucursalele Hidroelectrica din Bistriţa, Buzău, Curtea de Argeş, Haţeg, Porţile de Fier, Cluj, Oradea, Sebeş, Slatina şi Caransebeş, precum şi filialele Hidroserv Bistriţa, Curtea de Argeş, Sebeş, Haţeg, Cluj, Porţile de Fier şi Slatina.
Din Hidroenergetica vor mai face parte Electrocentrale Deva, Electrocentrale Bucureşti, Compania Naţională a Huilei, termocentrala Paroşeni şi sucursala Termoserv Paroşeni din Termoelectrica.
CH Hidroenergetica va avea ca obiect principal de activitate producerea energiei electrice, urmând a desfăşura şi activităţi de furnizare de energie electrică, producere, transport, distribuţie şi furnizare de energie termică şi exploatare a minelor de huilă.
Guvernul vrea să înfiinţeze Electra şi Hidroenergetica până la 1 iulie.

ziare.com: OMV a obtinut un imprumut de 1,5 miliarde de euro

Compania de petrol si gaze OMV, care detinePetrom in Romania, a anuntat o refinatare de 1,5 miliarde de euro a unui credit ce expira in 2011.

Noul imprumut are o maturitate de cinci ani si va acoperi mai multe cheltuieli ale grupului, relateazaThe Wall Street Journal.  La imprumut vor “cotiza” 16 banci locale si internationale, printre care Bank of America/Merrill Lynch, Barclays Capital, BNP Paribas, Credit Agricole, Deutsche Bank, Erste Group, J.P. Morgan, Raiffeisen Zentralbank, Societe Generale si Unicredit Bank Austria.

Petrom, care asigura jumatate din productia de petrol si gaze a OMV, a facut mai multe imprumuturi in ultimul an. La sfarsitul anului trecut, de exemplu, a obtinut o finantare de 500 de milioane de euro din partea mai multor banci internationale.

RIA Novosti: Gazprom, Eni to give each 10% of South Stream shares to French EDF – Putin

Russia’s energy giant Gazprom and Italy’s Eni will each contribute 10% of its shares in the South Stream gas pipeline project to French EDF, the Russian premier said.

South Stream, which shareholders include Gazprom and Eni, is designed to pump 63 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas annually to Bulgaria and further on to Italy and Austria.

“This will be a coordinated step on behalf of us [the Russians] and the Italians,” Vladimir Putin told journalists after asked on how the French company would acquire 20% in the project.

Putin said on Monday that an agreement on France’s Electricite de France (EDF) becoming a project shareholder is due to be signed in June in Russia’s second largest city of St. Petersburg. The EDF will acquire some 20% in the project.

The pipeline is due to go into operation by the end of 2015. It will run under the Black Sea from the Russian port city of Novorossiysk to the Bulgarian port of Varna.

Russia is also building the Nord Stream gas pipeline to carry 55 billion cu m of Russian natural gas annually to Western Europe under the Baltic Sea.

The intergovernmental agreement with Austria was signed in the presence of Putin and Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann. The agreement is the last document necessary for the project’s go-ahead.

RIA Novosti: No delays in South Stream implementation – Russia’s Putin

There are no delays in implementation of the South Stream gas pipeline project, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said in Italy on Monday.

South Stream, which shareholders include Russian energy giant Gazprom and Italy’s Eni, is designed to pump 63 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas annually to Bulgaria and further on to Italy and Austria.

“There are no delays on South Stream yet,” Putin said commenting on reports about inter-company problems between Gazprom and Eni which might affect the project’s deadline in 2015.

Putin said an agreement on France’s Electricite de France (EDF) becoming a project shareholder is due to be signed in June. The EDF will acquire some 20% in the project.

“The EDF agreed and expressed its desire to receive 20% [in the South Stream],” Putin said. “A corresponding agreement will be signed in St. Petersburg in June this year. Of course, this will enhance energy stability and security in Europe,” Putin continued.

The pipeline is due to go into operation by the end of 2015. It will run under the Black Sea from the Russian port city of Novorossiysk to the Bulgarian port of Varna.

Russia is also building the Nord Stream gas pipeline to carry 55 billion cu m of Russian natural gas annually to Western Europe under the Baltic Sea.

The intergovernmental agreement with Austria was signed in the presence of Putin and Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann. The agreement is the last document necessary for the project’s go-ahead.

RIA Novosti: Nord Stream gas pipeline capacity could be further increased – Putin

The capacity of Nord Stream, a pipeline to carry 55 billion cu m of Russian natural gas annually to western Europe under the Baltic Sea, could be further increased, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Monday.

“The total capacity will be 55 billion cu m. If necessary, we can increase this capacity. But this will not be required, if the South Stream gas project is implemented on time,” Putin said.

Nord Stream, whose shareholders include Gazprom, and German and Dutch companies, will consist of twin lines, each with a capacity of 27.5 billion cubic meters a year, extending 1,220 kilometers, the longest underwater pipeline in the world.

It will run from the Russian city of Vyborg near the Finnish border to the German port of Greifswald. The first stage of the pipeline is expected to go online in late 2011 and the second in 2012.

Putin also said that the test operation of the Nord Stream would be launched already in mid-2011.

“In 2011, we’ll finish work on the Nord Stream, and in June next year it will be ready, and the first test pumping of gas will begin. In late 2011, gas will start flowing to European consumers under the Nord Stream project,” Putin said.

Apart from Nord Stream, Russia is also building the South Stream gas pipeline under the Black Sea, which is designed to pump annually 31 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas to Bulgaria and further on to Italy and Austria.

The pipeline’s capacity could eventually reach 63 billion cubic meters annually. The gas pipeline is expected to start operating in late 2015 and account for about 35% of Russian natural gas supplies to Europe.

RIA Novosti: Italian companies get $2 billion contracts on Nord Stream gas pipeline

Italian companies have received $2 billion contracts on Russia’s Nord Stream gas pipeline, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said during his Italian visit on Monday.

“Italian companies constructing gas pipeline systems under the Baltic Sea, have received contracts for $2 billion on one Nord Stream project and that won’t be all,” Putin told a news conference after the talks with his Italian counterpart, Silvio Berlusconi.

He said sums on future contracts will increase following the execution of projects like the South Stream gas pipeline.

Nord Stream, which will run under the Baltic sea from Russia to Germany, is due to be launched at the end of 2011. The pipeline is to pump 55 billion cubic meters of gas to western Europe every year.

Italy is one of Russia’s leading trade partners, with bilateral trade reaching its all-time maximum of $52.9 billion in 2008. The figure declined in 2009 to $32.9 due to the financial crisis.

The two countries are involved in numerous joint projects, including the construction of South Stream, the development and production of the Sukhoi Superjet 100 aircraft and modernizing Russia’s railway network.

today.az: Italy proposes economy diversification aid to Azerbaijan

Italy has expressed readiness to help Azerbaijan in further development of the country.
Adolfo Urso, deputy minister of economic development of Italy, said that today Azerbaijan was one of the dynamically developing countries of the world.

“Your country has great potential for further development in a way of diversification of economy. Italy can help Azerbaijan in this process. Presently entrepreneurship, agriculture, and tourism are quite developed in Italy. We are ready to give support to Azerbaijan in creation of competitive agrarian sector. In addition, Italy is one of the best producers of agricultural equipment in the world. Italy is also one of the tourism centres of the world and we can assist with development of tourism resources in Azerbaijan,” Urso said.

today.az: Azerbaijan, Italy sign agreement on further economic cooperation

Azerbaijan and Italy signed an agreement on further economic cooperation at a joint business forum in Baku.

The document reflects issues of development of trade cooperation, establishing joint venture in various sectors of the economy, expanding interaction between the Azerbaijan Export & Investment Promotion Foundation (AZPROMO) and the Italian National Organization for  External Trade Relations. The agreement also envisages the involvement of mutual investments.

The document was signed by Deputy Minister of Economic Development Niyazi Safarov from the Azerbaijani side, and Italy’s Deputy Minister for Economic Development Adolfo Urso from the Italian side.

The business forum between Azerbaijan and Italy was attended by over 100 entrepreneurs, 40 of which are Italians.

“Political relations between Azerbaijan and Italy are at a high level, trade and economic relations are developing as a continuation of these relations. We think that this business forum will give a stimulus to the relations between the two countries” – Safarov said.

Trade turnover between the two countries amounts to about $4 billion, about 128 million of which fall to Azerbaijan’s import; the rest part falls to exported Azerbaijan’s export to Italy.

“We must seriously think about the diversification of export structure and give much attention to non-oil sector from both sides,” – Safarov said.

According to Urso, Azerbaijan is one of the most reliable partners of Italy on the shore of the Caspian Sea.

trend.az: Azerbaijan, Italy sign agreement on further economic cooperation

Azerbaijan and Italy signed an agreement on further economic cooperation at a joint business forum today in Baku. The document reflects issues of development of trade cooperation, establishing joint venture in various sectors of the economy, expanding interaction between the Azerbaijan Export & Investment Promotion Foundation (AZPROMO) and the Italian National Organization for  External Trade Relations. The agreement also envisages the involvement of mutual investments.

The document was signed by Deputy Minister of Economic Development Niyazi Safarov from the Azerbaijani side, Italy’s Deputy Minister for Economic Development Adolfo Urso from the Italian side.

The business forum between Azerbaijan and Italy was attended by over 100 entrepreneurs, 40 of which are Italians.

“Political relations between Azerbaijan and Italy are at a high level and trade and economic relations are developing as a continuation of these relations. We think that this business forum will give impetus to relations between the two countries” – Safarov said.

Trade turnover between the two countries amounts to about $4 billion, 128 million of which about fall to Azerbaijan’s import; the rest part falls to exported Azerbaijan’s export to Italy.

“We must seriously think about the diversification of export structure and give much attention to non-oil sector from both sides,” – Safarov said.

According to Urso, Azerbaijan is one of the most reliable partners of Italy on the shore of the Caspian Sea.

“In the future an impetus will be given to expansion of spheres of our cooperation”, – Urso said.

apa.az: Deputy Minister: Italy wants to purchase natural gas from Azerbaijan

Baku. Nijat Mustafayev – Apa-Economics. Italy interests in purchasing of natural gas of Azerbaijan via gas pipeline through Turkey and Greece, Italy’s deputy minister for Economic Development Adolfo Urso informed.

According to him, Italy is the second industrial country in Europe after Germany.

trend.az: Turkmen president confident in successful partnership with RWE in oil and gas sector

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov highly appreciates RWE’s constructive approach to establishing cooperation and expressed hius confidence in their future partnership, the Turkmen government said. Berdimuhammedov met with RWE AG Chairman Juergen Grossmann and Supply and Trading Director Stefan Judisch this week.

“Modernizing the fuel and energy complex is a priority state task,” the Turkmen leader said.

He added that modernizing infrastructure opens prospects for closer cooperation.

The RWE signed a memorandum on long-term cooperation with the Turkmen government last April.
The document provides for gas exploration, the creation of gas pipeline infrastructure and the study of means to transport Turkmen gas to world markets.

At the same time, a PSA was signed with the Turkmen Presidential State Agency for Hydrocarbon Resource Management and Use.
RWE recently opened an office in Ashgabat to begin developing Offshore Bloc No. 23 in the Turkmen sector of the Caspian Sea.

news.az: South Caucasus without US-EU leaves field open for Russia, Iran and Turkey

19069

David J. Smith

News.Az interviews Ambassador David J. Smith, Director of Georgian Security Analysis Center.

How could you characterize the common situation on conflicts in Post-Soviet area?  Which of these conflicts has more chances to be resolved?

Of course, it is difficult to speak about a common situation in an area that spans two continents with so many ethnic groups, religions, languages, political views, geopolitical and geoeconomic situations. That said, there are two related commonalities across the region.  First, for at least a century and a half—in many cases much more—the region was dominated by first the Russian, then the Soviet empires. This sublimated many conflicts, or at least hid them from view, retarded modernization and obliterated any kind of political maturation. Moreover, in a divide-and-conquer strategy, Russians and Soviets actually broadcast the seeds of discord.  This led to the second commonality, which is that Russia still meddles in the affairs of people and countries throughout the post-Soviet space.  It makes a very volatile situation.  So, though there are always local seeds of any conflict, all share these two things.  As for conflict resolution, well, that is hard to say.  I think westerners use this term too loosely.  After all, western Europeans were viciously at each other’s throats until 65 years ago.  Conflicts can be managed and ameliorated and in time, resolved.  Those that do get better will do so because of a combination of greater western involvement and—and I stress and—growing political will of the people in the regions concerned.

After the war in Georgia in august, 2008 the USA and EU showed the weak reaction on Russian occupation of Georgian territories. Does it mean that America and Europe refuse of  the Post-Soviet area?

Yes, the reaction of the west—US and EU—was woefully inadequate, not only for the people of Georgia, but also for the west’s own interests.  However, I do not think that this signaled that the west is giving up or abandoning the region.  Rather, the pitiful western reaction to Russia’s invasion of Georgia—which continues to this day—is a symptom of a fourfold crisis in western leadership.  First, emerging from the epic conflict that was the Cold War, westerners are no longer sure that they can or even should lead.  Second, and related to the first, so many long-repressed political issues have come to the fore in the western countries.  People—and political systems—are simply consumed with domestic affairs.  And the world economic downturn has exacerbated this phenomenon.  Third, in such a political climate, America plunged itself into two costly and apparently interminable wars.  This sapped resources and attention, drained what little popular interest existed in foreign affair and split the alliance.  Finally, and most important, the west simply does not get it.  It wants to live in a 21st Century post-historical world and it simply does not understand that most of Eurasia lives in an exceedingly 20th Century historical world.  Consequently, it missed the geopolitical significance—including missing its own interests—of Russia’s war on Georgia.  Moreover, it simply does not understand the ruthless nature of Vladimir Putin or of Putin’s Russia.  The upshot is that Russia invades with tanks and the west responds with bits of paper.  Russia tears up the papers and occupies another country and the west sweeps it all under the carpet.

Do you believe in possibility of the peaceful settlement of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict till the end of this year?

No.  I think with hard work and good will there could be progress this year.  But it is pointless—even harmful—to set unrealistic goals and expectations.

Iran considers that Nagorno-Karabakh conflict can be resolved only with mediatory of the regional countries because they are interested in regional development and prosperity. How could you comment this position?

This position is simplistic and, worse, self-serving.  What Iranian diplomats mean is that they want westerners, particularly Americans out of the region.  Well, that isn’t going to happen because there are western interests in the region.  Moreover, the South Caucasus without the US and the EU would simply leave the field open for competition among the three major powers—Russia, Iran and Turkey.  Don’t imagine that these countries are benign or without their own interests just because they are regional neighbors.  The reality is that western interest in the region is stabilizing.  Of course, that does not mean that everything every western country does is good or smart or disinterested.  But the region needs more, not less US and EU engagement.  By the way, one often hears a similar theme from Turkish diplomats—same answer.

Some Caspian countries consider that the real and reliable security system in this region can be built only by regional states themselves without any participation of non-regional countries. Do you share this opinion?

In the long run, real security in the region can come and be sustained only by the people and governments of the region.  They must have greater interest in any solutions that emerge than do the outsiders.  That said, the region has always been a cauldron of conflict.  There are too many animosities and too many interests to imagine that everything can be sorted out without help from outside.  Moreover, the outsiders have interests too and these must be reconciled if there is going to be a sustainable security system.  As I said before, there is no easy answer, no formula.

At the same time Russia remains in force its proposal to US about common exploitation of Gabala radar station to prevent the possible threat from Iran. Doesn’t this proposal contradict Moscow’s position not to let any non-regional country to the Caspian region? Can US accept the Russia’s offer about Gabala station in the future?

Well, I shall leave to the Russians the matter of whether their policies are self-contradicting.  Anyway, it is not a serious proposal—it was tossed out as a red herring to divert US missile defense efforts, particularly our cooperation with the Czech Republic and Poland.  Gabala is a decrepit, Soviet-era early warning radar.  Its location, so close to Iran is deceivingly attractive, which is why Putin used it.  However, we do not need an early warning radar so close to Iran; we need a tracking radar in central Europe.  Frankly, I do not believe Moscow is interested in real missile defense cooperation, but in the current political environment, it reaps benefits by pretending to be interested.

What kind of threat do you see from Iran and its nuclear program to Iranian neighbors and Azerbaijan in particular?

Countries acquire nuclear weapons to achieve geopolitical objectives, and Iran is no exception.  The threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon is not so much in its use—although that cannot be excluded—but in further, radical destabilization of the region.  (And the region, in this case, stretches from North Africa to Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf well into central Eurasia.)  Affected countries will not stand by idly, so the potential for conflict—conflicts—is greatly increased.  Needless to say, lighting such a fire above the tinderbox of the South Caucasus would be very dangerous.

Iran and Russia are against the project of Trans-Caspian gas pipeline. At the same time Russia tries to prevent the realization of NABUCCO project. What will be the destiny of these projects?

There is a simple logic here.  The western countries don’t like to say it too loudly, but they desperately want to develop energy routes that circumvent Russia.  Russia unabashedly wants to maintain its quasi-monopoly on Eurasian energy routes.  So the game of dueling projects, offers and counteroffers and competing contracts will continue.  In reality, Russia has not the money, technology or the energy sources to play this game forever.  On the other hand, western countries are unaccustomed to spending money for energy security, but they are gradually realizing that it is no different than spending money on defense, anti-terrorism or for that matter road safety or environmental security.  So, the Russian and western trend lines will play out for a few more years, but the result will be that some of these projects—and Nabucco is looking more realistic these days—will be built.

Ambassador David J. Smith is Director of Georgian Security Analysis Center (Tbilisi), and Senior Fellow of Potomac Institute for Policy Studies (Washington).

RFERL.org: Time Frame For Ratification Of Armenian-Turkish Protocols Increasingly Unclear

A Turkish army watch tower at the Dogu Kapi border crossing with Armenia.

A Turkish army watch tower at the Dogu Kapi border crossing with Armenia.

April 26, 2010
Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian’s announcement on April 22 that he is recalling from parliament the two protocols on normalizing relations with Turkey signed in Geneva last October does not, as Sarkisian himself stressed, signify the end of the process of rapprochement that he has advocated for the past three years. The protocols were, after all, only submitted to the legislature for ratification two months ago.

The effective suspension of the ratification process, and the terms in which both Sarkisian and the three-party coalition government announced it, do, however, raise questions about how and on what terms dialogue with Turkey will be resumed, especially in light of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s repeated linkage of ratification with the withdrawal of Armenian forces from districts of Azerbaijan bordering on the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. In a recentpolicy brief issued by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Thomas de Waal suggests that while the two sides could still make “small steps” to reaffirm their commitment to the process, actual ratification of the protocols may be on ice until after the Turkish parliamentary elections in 2011.

Sarkisian explained in his April 22 statement that from the outset, Armenia was committed to ratifying the protocols, provided that Turkey did so unconditionally and within what he termed “a reasonable time frame.” Turkey has, however, declined to do so, and has instead “done everything” to drag out the process. Armenia is thus forced to conclude that “Turkey is not ready to continue the process and to move forward,” Sarkisian said.

Armenia, Sarkisian continued, “considers unacceptable the pointless efforts of making the dialogue between Armenia and Turkey an end in itself; from this moment on, we consider the current phase of normalization exhausted.”

At the same time, Armenia continues to believe that eventual ratification of the protocols is in the best interests of the nation. For that reason, Sarkisian continued, “Armenia shall retain her signature under the Protocols, because we desire to maintain the existing momentum for normalizing relations, because we desire peace. Our political objective of normalizing relations between Armenia and Turkey remains valid, and we shall consider moving forward when we are convinced that there is a proper environment in Turkey and there is leadership in Ankara ready to reengage in the normalization process.”

Sarkisian further made a point of expressing gratitude to his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul for the “political correctness [he] displayed throughout this period and the positive relationship that developed between us.” Sarkisian did not mention Erdogan, who over the past year has consistently taken a much harder line than Gul, especially in pegging ratification of the protocols to progress in resolving the Karabakh conflict.

By contrast, the more toughly worded statement by the three Armenian coalition parties noted “the Turkish side’s inconsistent and evasive positions and policy of constantly setting preconditions.” It rejected as “unacceptable” statements by Turkish politicians in general and Erdogan in particular linking ratification of the protocols with “a settlement of the conflict between Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan.” The coalition statement too affirms that continuation of the ratification process at the present state is “meaningless” in light of Turkey’s unwillingness to drop preconditions.

In his recent CEIP policy brief, de Waal addresses the question of why Turkey committed itself to opening the border with Armenia in protocols that make no mention whatsoever of the Karabakh conflict, let alone making progress toward resolving it a precondition for doing so. De Waal suggests that Ankara badly underestimated not only the negative reaction from Baku to the entire rapprochement process, but also “how fundamental the Karabakh question is to Armenians.”

De Waal thinks that either the Turkish side was counting on Armenia to withdraw from some Azerbaijani territory in exchange for the reopening of the border, or that there would be progress in the OSCE Minsk Group talks in the months following the signing of the protocols. When that progress proved elusive, Gul found himself “boxed into a corner.”

Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian too implied that Ankara miscalculated in assuming that Yerevan would agree to compromises in the Karabakh talks for the sake of salvaging the ratification process; that, Nalbandian said on April 16, “is their problem.”

Whether Sarkisian gave Erdogan prior warning of his decision to suspend the ratification process when the two men met in Washington on April 12 at Erdogan’s request on the sidelines of the Global Nuclear Security Summit in Washington is not clear. Just days later, on April 18, Erdogan reiterated that Turkey will not open the border until Armenia ends its occupation of Azerbaijani territory.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu for his part affirmed on April 19 on the eve of a visit to Baku that “it is out of question for Turkey to open its border gate without the ratification of the protocols.”

Similarly unclear is whether, as the Azerbaijani news agency 1news.az reported on April 17 quoting “Hurriyet,” Erdogan told both U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Washington that Ankara “expects definite steps from Armenia,” and that an Armenian withdrawal from the Azerbaijani districts of Fizuli and Agdam would be a “desirable” first step.. A Google search failed to find any such statement on “Hurriyet’s” English-language website.

The most recent variant of the so-called “Madrid Principles” — the OSCE-drafted blueprint for resolving the Karabakh conflict — reportedly envisaged a phased Armenian withdrawal from five of the seven Azerbaijani districts currently controlled by Armenian forces (Agdam, Fizuli, Jabrayil, Zangelan and Qubadli), but does not specify over what timeframe and in what order.

The Line of Contact that separates Azerbaijani and Armenian forces runs along the eastern border of Agdam in the north and Fizuli in the south. Given that the loss of Agdam would render the central region of Nagorno-Karabakh, including the capital, Stepanakert, and the nearby town of Shusha vulnerable, including to Azerbaijani artillery attack, Agdam and Fizuli are the two districts where Azerbaijan would most probably focus any military offensive aimed at restoring its hegemony over the region by force, as Michael Mensoian pointed out in a detailed analysis published last month in the “Armenian Weekly.”

De Waal suggested that Armenia could demonstrate its good faith by agreeing to open communications across its territory between Azerbaijan and its exclave of Nakhichevan. That would entail transit across the southernmost regions of Azerbaijan south of Karabakh that are currently under Armenian control. Whether Sarkisian’s position domestically is strong enough for him to agree to such a concession is questionable, however.

Novinite: Putin: Russia, Italy Grant France’s EDF Up to 20% of South Stream

Bulgaria: Putin: Russia, Italy Grant France's EDF Up to 20% of South Stream
Russian and Italy PMs Putin and Berlusconi have agreed to make EDF the third partner in the South Stream project. Photo by EPA/BGNES

French energy company Electricite de France may have a share of up to 20% of the South Stream gas transit pipeline, Russian PM Vladimir Putin announced.

Putin met Monday with his Italian counterpart Silvio Berlusconi prior to a summit at Villa Gernetto in Lesmo near Milan, Italy.

“PM Berlusconi and I have agreed that France will become part of the South Stream project, and the agreement for that will be signed in St. Petersburg in June,” said the Russian Prime Minister as cited by RIA Novosti. Thus, France’s EDF will become the third partnering company in the project together with Russia’s Gazprom and Italy’s Eni.

Putin assured the media that there are no delay on the execution of the South Stream pipeline which will transfer Russia gas to Italy via the Black Sea and Bulgaria as well as several other Southeast European states.

The Russian PM reminded that over the weekend Austria signed an agreement to join the project, which has completed the legal base for the pipe with Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Greece, Slovenia, and Croatia having already become part of it.

The Black Sea section of South Stream, which will bridge the Russian and the Bulgarian coast, will be 900 km long, and will have a transit capacity of 63 billion cubic meters of gas. Once completed, the South Stream pipe is supposed to be used for 35% of the Russian gas transfers to Europe.

Novinite: Bulgaria’s New Gas Deal Talks with Russia Grind to a Halt

Bulgaria: Bulgaria's New Gas Deal Talks with Russia Grind to a Halt
Bulgargaz CEO Dimitar Gogov has appealed to Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller in order to speed up the gas supply talks between the two companies. Photo by BGNES

The negotiations between Bulgaria and Russia for a new natural gas contract have come to a standstill, announced Dimitar Gogov, CEO of Bulgargaz.

According to Gogov, the talks which were supposed to eliminate the intermediaries between Gazprom as a natural gas supplier and the Bulgarian state monopoly Bulgargaz as a recipient, have stalled because Gazpromexport, a Gazprom subsidiary, is procrastinating.

At the end of 2009, the energy ministers of Bulgaria and Russia Traicho Traikov and Sergei Shmatko agreed to eliminate the notorious intermediaries in the gas trade between the two states.

In February 2010, Traikov announced the Bulgarian government was holding conversations with the Russians in order to start talks on amending the gas contracts.

Currently, Bulgaria gets Russian natural gas through three intermediaries – Overgas Inc, Wintershall, and Gazpromexport. In February 2010, Gogov explained that Bulgaria was going to fulfill its contracts with them until they expired in 2011-2012 but that by the end of 2010 Bulgargaz was going to negotiate new gas supply contracts with Gazprom or its subsidiary Gazpromexport thus eliminating the other two companies.

On Monday, Bulgargaz CEO Gogov told journalists in Sofia that he had appealed to the Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller in order to accelerate the holding of a new round of talks.

At the same time, the contract of Bulgargaz for the delivery of 1 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year with intermediary Overgas is expiring at the end of 2010.

However, Gogov has assuaged fears that the Bulgarian economy will not suffer even it there is no contract with Gazpromexport or Gazprom to replace the deal with Overgas because Bulgaria’s natural gas consumption has dropped substantially.

In 2008, Bulgaria consumed a total of 3.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas but in 2009 its consumption dropped by 25% as a result of the economic crisis.

Of the three intermediaries in the Russian-Bulgarian gas trade, Gazpromexport offers the cheapest prices but at the moment holds the smallest share.

In addition to eliminating the two other intermediaries, Bulgaria insists on additional changes in its gas supply contracts with Russia including a revision of the rates for the transit of Russian gas to Turkey, Greece, and Macedonia.

Under the existing agreement, the Bulgargaz subsidiary Bulgartransgas gets paid USD 1.7 for transporting 1 000 cubic meters at a distance of 100 km.

Bulgaria is also demanding the introduction of bank guarantees in the event of a failure of some of the contractual parties to carry out their obligations, and to be granted the right to re-export negotiated but unused gas deliveries that it receives from Russia which currently governed by a “take or pay” clause of the supply contract.

energia.gr: Competition Heats Up Over EU Southern Gas Corridor

Austria joined the Gazprom-sponsored South Stream gas pipeline project on 24 April, marking the beginning of a new phase of competition between the pipeline and its rival Nabucco, which is designed to bring gas to Europe from sources other than Russia.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who presided over the deal in Austria, said supplies of Russian gas to Austria would increase by two billion cubic metres a year after South Stream’s launch.

Austria, which gets 60% of its gas from Russia, became the seventh country to sign on to the 900-kilometere South Stream pipeline, following Croatia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Greece and Slovenia.

Putin took the opportunity to mock ongoing preparations for the rival, EU-sponsored Nabucco project, the Russian press reports.

“Before constructing something, one should sign supply contracts. Construction of the pipeline without contracts is dangerous and makes no sense. Name me just one contract for Nabucco,”said Putin, according to the Russian government website.

Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann said he did not see a conflict between Nabucco and South Stream, adding that Austria, which also supports Nabucco, was interested in different ways of diversifying its gas supply.

“And we don’t know yet if there will be gas supplies via Nabucco,” he told the news conference.

Nabucco starts tendering process

Meanwhile on Friday (23 April), the day before the Vienna ceremony, the Nabucco consortium launched a tendering process for items needed to start building the pipeline.

Nabucco Gas Pipeline International launched the pre-qualification process as the starting phase of a 3.5 billion euro procurement process for items such as pipes and valves, the company announced in a written statement.

“Long lead items – like pipes and valves – are the cornerstone of pipeline construction, and account for a considerable proportion of overall investment costs. The prequalification process will identify the most eligible companies and is the basis for a successful procurement process,” Nabucco Managing Director Reinhard Mitschek is quoted as saying.

The route corridor was recently selected for the first phase of the project. Meanwhile work to secure right of way and permissions for environmental and social assessments, as well as construction permits in Nabucco countries, is currently in progress, the consortium further announced. The first gas is expected to flow by the end of 2014.

The Nabucco pipeline is expected to cost 7.9 billion euro to build. Although seen as a flagship EU project, its advance has been slow and exotic ideas have been put forward for partly merging it with the rival, Gazprom-favoured South Stream project (EurActiv 11/03/10).

Ukraine suggests scrapping South Stream

During a recent meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich suggested that instead of investing in South Stream, Gazprom would be better off building additional pipelines across his country(EurActiv 22/04/10).

In the meantime, suggestions have been made to partially merge Nabucco and South Steam, with Nabucco abandoning its previous plans to bring gas solely from sources other than Russia (EurActiv 11/03/10).

“South Stream looks expensive, technologically complicated and unnecessary. Nabucco appears relatively realistic and it is further advanced in the planning process. The EU should call the Russians’ bluff by asking Gazprom to use Nabucco to ship gas into South and Central Europe,” wrote Katinka Barysch, deputy director of the Centre for European Reform, recently.

energia.gr: Enel, Inter RAO To Build Nuclear Plant In Russia

Italian utility Enel SpA (ENEL.MI) andRussia ‘s state-controlled Inter RAO UES (IRAO.RS) Monday agreed to together build a nuclear power plant in the Russian region of Kaliningrad , among other projects.

With two units of 1,170 megawatts each, the plant will export a “significant proportion” of the electricity it produces to nearby European markets when it comes into operation between 2016 and 2018, a statement said, adding that it is “the first nuclear public-private partnership in Russia.”

At 1114 GMT, Enel shares were up 0.48% at EUR4.15 in Milan , while Inter ROA shares were down 1.0% at 0.0596 rubles in Moscow .

The companies’ memorandum of understanding was signed by Enel Chief Executive Fulvio Conti and Inter RAO’s Boris Kovalchuk during an official visit by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to Italy , where he met with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Kovalchuk is the acting chairman of Inter RAO’s management committee.

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