Azerbaijani ambassador: Border hostilities may harm Israeli oil supplies

Envoy tells ‘Post’ violence threatens region that ‘provides Israel with 40% of its oil

A worker walks near an oil rig belonging to Zion Oil and Gas in northern Israel in 2010. (photo credit: REUTERS/NIR ELIAS)
A worker walks near an oil rig belonging to Zion Oil and Gas in northern Israel in 2010.
(photo credit: REUTERS/NIR ELIAS)
Violence along the Armenian and Azerbaijani border could harm energy supplies from that region, of which Israel is a recipient, warned Elin Suleymanov, Azerbaijani ambassador to the US.
The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline “provides Israel with 40% of its oil,” Suleymanov told The Jerusalem Post, from Washington, where he, like many Azerbaijani officials are attempting to highlight the global importance of a conflict that has received fairly little international attention.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have long been in conflict over the mainly ethnic Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Armenia is considered to be occupying Nagorno-Karabakh since 1991, in violation of four UN Security Council resolutions and against US State Department policy, which does not recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent country and “supports the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.”
But the latest flare-ups that began on July 12 are around the Tavush region in northern Armenia and Azerbaijan, some 300 km. from the contested enclave.
At least fifteen Azerbaijani and Armenian servicemen and one Azerbaijani civilian have died as a result of the violence.
Both Armenia and Azerbaijan have blamed each other for the skirmishes along an internationally recognized border that is very close to a central transit and energy route between Europe and the Caspian Region. “The most important part is of course the oil and gas pipelines, which independently deliver oil and gas to the European and global markets,” Suleymanov said.
The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, the Baku-Supsa oil pipeline and the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzrum gas pipeline are located not far from the territory. That region also hosts the last stretch of the Southern Gas Corridor, whose completion will reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian gas supplies. Russia and Armenia are allies.
Energy expert Brenda Shaffer, of the US Naval Post graduate school faculty and the senior adviser for energy at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank said the border violence was not accidental and blamed Armenia for wanting to disrupt completion of the new gas pipeline.
“It doesn’t happen by chance” that violence broke out “on the eve of the completion of the Southern Gas Corridor, which will bring the first new gas volumes into Europe in decades,” Shaffer said.
Unlike the conflict over the “Nagorno-Karabakh” region, this violence “took place at the international border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, very close to the a narrow but critical transit highway for energy and transportation that is the only outlet between the Caspian Region and Europe that doesn’t transit Russia or Iran, Shaffer said.
In addition one of “the most important air corridors in the world,” through which runs “most of the air traffic between Europe and Asia” is above this same corridor, she said. “Despite COVID-19, the Southern Gas Corridor is supposed to open in October” which will create a large strategic shift regarding Azerbaijan’s relations with Europe, Shaffer said.
It has already changed the “dynamics of the Turkish gas market” such that Turkey is importing less gas from Russia and Iran, she added. In light of the impact on the gas supplies, Shaffer said, it’s unlikely that Azerbaijan caused the violence, because doing so would undermine its strategic corridor at a critical juncture.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Azerbaijan and Armenia on Monday to exercise maximum restraint.
“The secretary-general is following with deep concern the current tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia. He calls for maximum restraint, as a full conflict between these two countries would be disastrous,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
Reuters contributed to this report.