ANKARA, Turkey — The Turkish and Azerbaijani presidents on Tuesday inaugurated a key pipeline carrying natural gas from Azerbaijan's gas fields to Turkish markets and eventually to Europe, part of a wider Southern Gas Corridor project that aims to diversify gas supplies and reduce countries' dependence on Russia.
The Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline, or TANAP, is also part of Turkey's ambition of becoming a major energy hub.
"We are taking a historic step," Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at a ceremony in central Eskisehir province with Azerbaijan's Ilham Aliyev marking the delivery of the first gas. "We are inaugurating a project that is the 'Silk Road' of energy."
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic also attended.
Erdogan said the pipeline would not only ensure energy security but also increase the "welfare of the people on its route." It will deliver 6 billion cubic meters of gas per year to Turkey and 10 billion cubic meters to Europe.
Although it has no financial involvement, the United States has strongly supported TANAP, said Sandra Oudkirk, the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Energy, who also attended the ceremony.
"We take energy security for ourselves and allies and partners really seriously and we see this as an important component of the bigger energy diversification and energy security picture," she told a group of journalists in Ankara earlier.
The pipeline will eventually be connected to the Trans Adriatic Pipeline, or TAP, at the Turkey-Greece border. Erdogan said that could take place in June 2019.