Today's Zaman, Turkey
Nov 1 2008


Bush sends A-team to lend support to Turkey's energy policy


US President George W. Bush has sent a high-profile team to Turkey to
help "diversify Turkey's energy mix and to promote Turkey's role as a
strategic energy corridor," a senior US official has said.

US Deputy Secretary of Energy Jeffrey Kupfer arrived in Turkey on
Thursday with a delegation of senior US officials to attend the World
Economic Forum and hold high-level talks with Turkish politicians and
members of the business community. The stated purpose of the visit was
to reaffirm the "US commitment to help Turkey strengthen its energy
security" and find ways in which the US could assist Turkey, such as
financing projects during this time of crisis when commercial banks
are much less willing to lend.

Today's Zaman had the opportunity to attend a private meeting with the
delegation, which consisted of US Overseas Private Investment
Corporation (OPIC) President Robert Mosbacher, US Export-Import Bank
Chief Operating Officer John McAdams and US Trade and Development
Agency Director Larry Walther, and discuss the US administration's
plans. Speaking at the small roundtable event, Kupfer stated that the
delegation had been sent by Bush to help "diversify Turkey's energy
mix and to promote Turkey's role as a strategic energy corridor."
Noting that several members of the delegation had worked with Turkish
companies for a significant number of years, Kupfer emphasized that
the trip would also give US agencies a feel for what individual
companies were looking for in order to facilitate investment and
reaffirmed the US government's commitment to the "westward flow of
Caspian resources." The administration's position, he clarified, was
that "Turkey is in a position to enhance its energy security and
provide solutions to its upstream and downstream partners".

In an exclusive interview with Today's Zaman after the meeting, Kupfer
reiterated the good strategic relations that Washington enjoys with
Ankara on a number of fronts. "We are here with this particular
delegation because we are looking for a continued push for energy
diversity around the world, especially in the Caspian region and in
Europe," he said. "Turkey plays a vital role in that overall policy."

The delegation, he said, would specifically talk with the government
and the private sector about their financing requirements. When asked
if there were any specific companies that the delegation was working
with or if there were any concerns on the part of the delegation
regarding the tender process, Kupfer did not want to comment on any
particular deals, but stated: "Our role is to make sure that the
tenders and the rest of the business climate are conducive to US
companies having the ability to compete. It's in everyone's interest
that the investment climate is supportive of multiple companies being
able to compete in the tenders and being able to get the best prices
and the best technology."

The US has long been active in promoting energy diversification in
Turkey and elsewhere and promotes not only alternative pipeline
routes, but also alternative energy sources. "These are not just our
goals -- they are Turkey's goals. We all share the same goals. There
is energy security, and we are looking to diminish dependence on
natural gas by making efficiency improvements," he said. Nuclear
energy factors heavily in this plan.

Mosbacher noted during the meeting that in addition to supporting oil
and gas pipelines, the administration places importance on
diversifying energy sources, with a particular emphasis on renewable
energy, and is especially interested in investing in these projects
when there is partial American ownership.

Responding to questions concerning helping Turkey and Europe reduce
their dependence on Russian oil and gas, Kupfer said this has long
been a priority of the US government and that now -- in the aftermath
of the Georgian crisis -- its importance has been underlined. The
Southern Corridor, a supply route which would carry Caspian gas to
Europe, he said, is an essential part of this strategy.

Regarding the global economic crisis, Kupfer highlighted the fact that
it would likely be increasingly difficult for governments and
companies to borrow from commercial banks in order to secure needed
funding, especially for long-term infrastructure projects. Through
such actors as the US government, OPIC and the Export-Import Bank,
Kupfer said, "we would all agree to share the risk of making loans and
stepping into the void left by commercial banks' retreat." He added
that his intention was not to crowd out private sector banks and that
he'd rather they be the principal financers.

One obvious way to diversify routes would be relying on Iranian
pipelines. Kupfer, nonetheless, reaffirmed America's negative stance
on this issue and deflected comments by Today's Zaman that Armenia
could be a reasonable transit route given the threats posed to
pipelines running through Georgia that were exposed during the recent
Russian invasion.

It was reported that the delegation had already had meetings with the
Turkish prime minister and energy minister and has planned meetings
with the foreign minister and the treasury minister. The Turkish
government, Kupfer noted, is very supportive of the initiative.


01 November 2008, Saturday
DAVID NEYLAN Ä°STANBUL