President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has received a delegation led by European Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson, who is attending the 8th Ministerial Meeting of the Southern Gas Corridor Advisory Council in Baku on February 4, 2022. Photo courtesy of President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Official Website.
Energy commissioner Kadri Simson met with Azerbaijan's authoritarian leader Ilham Aliyev to discuss ramping up supplies from the energy-rich Caucasus country.
Officials from other European countries as well as the United Kingdom and the United States were also part of the delegation.
Simson and Aliyev discussed the Southern Gas Corridor (SCG), a route that brings supplies from the Caspian Sea to Europe and has been operational since 2020.
Western claims that Moscow is plotting to attack Ukraine have led to fears that Moscow could suspend its gas deliveries to Europe.
Some in the EU have accused Russia of orchestrating an energy crisis with the aim of putting pressure on Western countries.
"We want the volume of gas exported from Azerbaijan to Europe to reach 10 billion cubic meters," Simson said at a press conference after the talks.
"This project is important against the backdrop of shortages and rising prices in the energy market," she said.
The EU official said Brussels had "strong bilateral" relations with Azerbaijan, calling it a "reliable energy supply partner."
Aliyev said Baku had exported 19 billion cubic meters of gas last year, including 8.5 billion to Turkey and 7 billion to Italy. It also exported gas to Georgia, Greece and Bulgaria.
He added that Albania will receive gas from Baku once it "completes the construction of its gas distribution network."
- Relations 'enter new phase' -
The Azerbaijani leader earlier hailed a new chapter in cooperation between the EU and his country.
"Cooperation between the EU and Azerbaijan in the (energy) sphere has entered a new phase," Aliyev said in a statement.
After a meeting with Azeri Energy Minister Parviz Shahbazov earlier, Simson said on Twitter: "We agreed to step-up our partnership, both in the gas sector, but also in the field of #renewables."
The gas route involves pipelines going through Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey and Greece before reaching Italy via the Adriatic Sea.
Baku began sending gas towards Europe from its massive Shah Deniz field in the Caspian Sea last year.
Russia supplies more than 40 percent of European gas imports.
Western countries are currently trying to find alternative solutions, particularly by increasing deliveries of liquefied natural gas (LNG).
In power since 2003, Aliyev has been accused by rights groups and Western countries of presiding over a crackdown on his opponents, the media and the freedom of speech.