Details uncovered on continued Azerbaijani oil exports to Israel via Turkey

Details uncovered on continued Azerbaijani oil exports to Israel via Turkey
Around 40% of Israel's annual oil consumption is thought to make its way through the BTC pipeline route. / Charles, cc-by-sa 4.0
By bne IntelliNews May 28, 2024

An investigative journalist has presented export data and contractual details on a BP-operated pipeline that he says show how Azerbaijani oil continues to flow to Israel via Turkey despite Ankara’s trade boycott on the Israelis in response to actions in the Gaza war.

Turkish reporter-in-exile Metin Cihan (@metcihan) took a look at how oil from Azerbaijan’s Caspian fields arrives at Turkey’s port of Ceyhan via the Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, from where it is shipped across the Mediterranean to Israel’s port of Haifa.

As bne IntelliNews reported in early May, the oil export operation appears to be continuing despite Turkey’s trade ministry asserting on May 2 that “all products” were covered by the trade boycott announced due to the “worsening humanitarian tragedy in Palestine [amid the conflict in Gaza]”.

The data looked at by Cihan is from Turkey’s state-owned crude oil and gas company Botas. The BTC pipeline’s Turkey section is managed by Botas, under the oversight of the Turkey Wealth Fund, led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has accused the Israelis of committing “genocide” in their invasion and besieging of Gaza. Pipeline operator British Petroleum (BP) is the largest shareholder in the BTC.

Azerbaijan is a close ally of fellow Muslim-majority nation Turkey, but it is also seen as having strong relations with Israel. However, the BTC contractual information examined by Cihan indicate that is more than just geopolitical considerations that keeps the oil flowing to Israel.

Cihan said BTC agreements appear to obligate Turkey to maintain the flow of oil through the pipeline even in cases of conflict or terrorism. At the same time, Turkey receives only $0.80 per barrel of oil loaded onto tankers at Ceyhan, he said.

The BTC route is thought to supply around 40% of Israel’s annual crude oil consumption.

Cihan stated that Turkey has no control or influence over the destination of the oil because Azerbaijan retains the right to sell the oil and determine its final buyers.

Export data on January show that in that month Israel was the top customer for Azerbaijani oil, importing 523,500 tonnes worth $297mn. Other significant suppliers of oil to Israel are Kazakhstan and Nigeria.

Israel—which in the conflict with Palestinian militant group Hamas has refused to allow Turkey to join in international efforts to deliver aid to Gaza civilians—has become a very important supplier of arms to Azerbaijan, with exports including combat drones from Israel Aerospace Industries, long-range artillery and surface-to-air missile systems. Israel also sells satellites to Azerbaijan.

In December, Erdogan and family members stated their intention to file a criminal complaint of insult and slander against Cihan who they said had falsely claimed a company associated with the Turkish president’s son, Burak Erdogan, continued trading with Israel despite the Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip.

At the time, months before Turkey announced it would stop all trade with Israel, Erdogan was under growing pressure from critics who saw him as pursuing a “words not action” approach to the Israelis in relation to Gaza.