The European Commission on Monday signed a memorandum of understanding with Azerbaijan to double imports of natural gas within a few years, as it seeks non-Russian suppliers after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

With the deal, Azerbaijan commits to double the capacity of the Southern Gas Corridor to deliver at least 20 billion cubic meters (bcm) a year to the European Union by 2027, a statement said.

“The EU is turning to more reliable energy suppliers. Today I’m in Azerbaijan to sign a new agreement,” commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Twitter.

“With this new Memorandum of Understanding, we are opening a new chapter in our energy cooperation with Azerbaijan, a key partner in our efforts to move away from Russian fossil fuels,” von der Leyen said.

“Our goal: double the gas delivery from Azerbaijan to the EU in a few years. Azerbaijan will be a crucial partner for our security of supply and on our way to climate neutrality,” she added.

Azerbaijan is already increasing deliveries of natural gas to the EU from 8.1 bcm in 2021 to an expected 12 bcm in 2022, the commission said.

It has been supplying gas to Europe through pipelines running via Georgia and Turkey.

Ahead of the visit, the European Commission stated, “Amid Russia’s continued weaponization of its energy supplies, diversification of our energy imports is a priority for the EU.”

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said last week that “an important document on energy security will be signed between the European Union and Azerbaijan.”

In May, EU leaders agreed to stop most Russian oil imports by the end of the year, as part of unprecedented sanctions they slapped on Moscow over the military action in Ukraine.

But the bloc put off an outright ban on Russian gas, which in 2021 amounted to 155 billion cubic meters – nearly 40% of the EU’s needs.

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