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Turkey must minimize Bosphorus traffic risks, minister says

ST. PETERSBURG - Anatolia News Agency | 6/18/2010 12:00:00 AM |

The rising tanker traffic in the Bosphorus Strait poses a significant danger for Turkey, according to Energy Minister Taner Yıldız.

Increasing tanker traffic on the Bosphorus Strait poses a significant danger for Turkey, and the government is trying to find a way to decrease the number of ships passing through, according to Energy Minister Taner Yıldız.

Yıldız was responding to questions from journalists on Friday at the 14th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, an event Russia organizes as an alternative to the World Economic Forum meetings at Davos, Switzerland.

Responding to a question, Yıldız said the tanker traffic on the Bosphorus Strait is rising every passing day due to the Montreux Convention of 1936. “This [traffic] should be decreased through ways that would bypass the Bosphorus. We cannot sit and watch this increasing traffic.” The ministry plans to hold a meeting in Istanbul by the end of the month, which would bring together a dozen big companies, including BP, ExxonMobil and Chevron.

Under the Montreux Convention, commercial shipping has the right to free passage through the straits in peacetime, although Turkey claims the right to impose regulations for safety and environmental purposes.

[HH] Danger for Istanbul

The meeting aims to find a way to decrease Bosphorus traffic, the minister said. “A significant part of the 150 million tons of [annual] traffic at the Bosphorus involves crude oil and oil products. We have to talk about the issue with companies. We have to minimize risks,” he said.

Responding to a question on whether the proposed Samsun-Ceyhan oil pipeline would help alleviate the burden on the Bosphorus, as the Burgas-Andropolis project has been put on hold, Yıldız said Samsun-Ceyhan would be an important factor in decreasing Bosphorus traffic.

“Russia also says Turkey is right in its concerns about Bosphorus traffic,” Yıldız said. “In our last meeting with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin in Istanbul, he said he finds Turkey’s worries legitimate. We will talk with companies from the EU, U.S. and Russia on this issue. We should work together for this.”

Speaking at a panel on the future of the global energy and gas market, Yıldız said in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, new economic powers are emerging. In reflection, supply and demand in energy should be assessed in accordance with this overall shift in the global economy, he said.

“New energy transfer projects are of crucial importance in energy supply security,” he said, also noting that Russia has become a key global actor by adding Central Asian resources on top of its already rich natural resources. “But the rise in non-conventional gas production could hurt Russia’s dominant position in the global energy market,” he said. “Russia should modernize its energy infrastructure, attract foreign capital and develop strategic cooperation partners.”

[HH] Warning EU on Iran

A European Union plan to impose harsh sanctions on Iran’s energy sector “would hurt the EU more than it would hurt Turkey,” Yıldız said.

“[EU sanctions on Iran’s energy sector] would first hurt the EU, not Turkey,” he said. “Evidently, the outlook is not commercial here. If it were commercial, an increase in the number of source countries would mean increased supply rivalry between them.”

Yıldız said in this respect, he believes the EU policy would be reassessed soon. “It is not correct to view the world’s second-biggest gas reserves as if they were nothing,” he said. “I find such developments important in the sense of the projects Turkey will develop.”

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