Putin praises Erdoğan as ‘tough man’ for defying EU over pipeline decision
Nerdun Hacıoğlu MOSCOW
Putin surprised European countries during a visit to the Turkish capital Ankara on Dec. 1, when he announced that Moscow was scrapping the South Stream gas pipeline that was set to pass through Bulgaria. DHA PhotoRussian President Vladimir Putin has described Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as a “tough man,” praising him for not being intimidated by a potential Western reaction against Russia’s decision to scrap the South Stream gas pipeline in favor of replacing it with a route through Turkey.
Putin surprised European countries during a visit to the Turkish capital Ankara on Dec. 1, when he announced that Moscow was scrapping the South Stream gas pipeline that was set to pass through Bulgaria, citing EU objections as the reason. He said Russia would instead build a gas hub at the border between Turkey and Greece to pump gas to southern Europe.
Speaking at his annual end-of-the year news conference on Dec. 18, the Russian president said he was aware that Europe would be infuriated by the decision and claimed to have asked Erdoğan to keep the deal confidential “for now.”
However, he said, the Turkish president refused to keep the decision under wraps, in defiance of any potential criticism.
“I had no doubt [about Europe’s reaction]. I told Erdoğan, ‘Maybe we shall keep the deal we reached a secret for now, not disclose it. Let’s not anger the Europeans. But Erdoğan is tough guy and he explained to me that we had not stolen anyone’s possession and hiding it was unnecessary,” Putin said.
Pipeline decision ‘depends on Europe’
Speaking of the pipeline issue, Putin said there is “no safer or more reliable route than the pipeline that will pass through Turkey.”
When asked about whether using Turkish territories for building a gas hub makes Russia more dependent on the country, Putin claimed this was already a pre-planned decision and setbacks in the South Stream line had diverted Russia’s direction towards Turkey.
“Everyone depends on each other in this world. We already had a plan to build a southbound pipeline for years. Turkey is one of our most reliable partners … When the South Stream hit a rough patch, as an emerging economy Turkey demanded more gas from us. Responding to this request positively, we decided to divert the new pipeline toward Turkey. I’m glad we did. This way, primarily Turkey will be getting the gas it needs from us,” he said.
The Russian president also asserted that the organization of a new European gas hub on the border between Turkey and Greece now depended on Europe.
“To a large extent, this depends on our European counterparts. Would they like to have stable, absolutely guaranteed, risk-free energy supplies from Russia, which they need? If so, we shall be working, and via Greece we may reach Macedonia, and further Serbia, and then to go again to Baumgartner in Austria. If they are not interested, we shall not do so,” he said.
Cooperation with Turkey
On the issue of European calls for Turkey to join Western sanctions against Moscow, Putin reiterated his commitment to enhancing his country’s cooperation with Turkey.
“We have many common interests with Turkey over regional issues. Therefore we are determined to develop our relations with Turkey and we will,” he said.