Matthew Bryza, Director of the International Centre for Defence Studies in Estonia and former US ambassador to Azerbaijan, believes Azerbaijan will be even-handed in the choice between Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) and Nabucco West for gas supplies to Europe.
Bryza said in his recent interview with New Europe in Athens that the Azerbaijani government's policy will be even-handed "not only because that's politically fair but because that's smart negotiating".
"The decision will not be made on the basis of politics; it will be made by the Shah Deniz consortium," he said.
The consortium developing the Azerbaijani Shah Deniz gas condensate field is considering both TAP and Nabucco West as options for gas transportation to Europe. Both are part of the Southern Gas Corridor, a major energy project for the EU seeking to diversify routes and sources of supply. A final decision on the pipeline route is due to be made in June 2013.
The TAP project is designed to transport gas from the Caspian region via Greece and Albania and across the Adriatic Sea to southern Italy and further into western Europe. TAP's initial capacity will be 10 billion cubic meters per year, but it is easily expandable to 20 billion cubic meters.
Nabucco West is a short-cut version of the Nabucco project, which envisages construction of a pipeline from the Turkish-Bulgarian border to Austria. Designated capacity of the project is up to 31 billion cubic meters per year.
Asked if the Russian-backed South Stream project is competition for the Southern Corridor and regarding the chances of South Stream, Bryza said the chances are excellent.
He believes Russia's South Stream is intended as a way to intimidate investors not to proceed with the Southern Corridor.
"But I don't think that's going to succeed. I think that strategy is going to fail because the Southern Corridor is going to be a reality. So then probably [there] will be both pipelines," Bryza said in the interview.
Bryza stressed that the supporters of South Stream are worried more about Nabucco, much more than any project, in particular because it will serve those eastern Balkan and central European countries that are mostly dependent on Russian gas giant Gazprom right now.
"So it will dilute Gazprom's monopoly and so Gazprom wants to try to stop that by going with South Stream," Bryza said.
"I think both South Stream and either Nabucco West or TAP will be built," he added.
The South Stream project includes the construction of a gas pipeline across the Black Sea to the South and Central European countries.