The biggest oil and gas company in Azerbaijan, Socar, has opened an office in Bucharest with the stated goal of looking for business opportunities in Romania, a possible investment in a Romanian refinery included. A strong supporter of the Nabucco energy project, Azerbaijan - through SOCAR - is one of the few Caspian countries acting independently of Russia.

Hamza Karimov, head of the SOCAR office in Romania, spoke for about the intentions of his company.

Karimov said that Azerbaijan reported 30 million tons of crude in 2006 and forecasts a production of 44 million tons for 2007 and is looking for new markets. Though its position on the Black Sea coast and with its port city of Constanta, Romania is a very important country in Azeri plans in this regard, he said.

Socar now allows itself to do sell oil and gas directly to foreign markets, with no intermediaries, and Romania is one country included in related Azeri plans, he said.

In the oil sector, politics matter a lot and Romania was the second country worldwide to have recognized the independence of Azerbaijan in the nineties, he said. Practically, Romania will be the second entry gate for Azeri resources in Europe, he said.

But for now, Socar was exploring the market and had no palpable plans yet, he said.

He said he did not have any data about Azeri media reports according to which Socar had already signed a contract on crude deliveries with Romanian company Rompetrol and thus could not confirm the information.

Speaking of the options of other Caspian countries about collaborating with Russia on oil deliveries towards Europe, Karimov said “any country has the right to choose whatever Russia wants. Those countries will decide what they want to do. We cannot meddle with their policies”.