Turkey, Russia ‘freeze Turkish Stream talks’
Merve Erdil - ISTANBUL
Turkey and Russia have been unable to make progress in the planned Turkish Stream project and have frozen talks for now, according to high-level Turkish energy officials.
“We can’t move forward in the negotiations at the moment. Russia placed the gas discount talks between Gazprom and Turkey’s gas grid, BOTAŞ, as a prerequisite to the Turkish Stream project. But we saw this as a starting point. As no government could be established after the June election in Turkey, the talks have been frozen for now. The parties have not ended the talks, but frozen them,” said Energy Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Sefa Sadık Aytekin.
Aytekin noted that Turkey had increased its requested gas discount from around 6 percent to 10.25 percent.
“We actually wanted to negotiate these issues separately from each other,” he said at the 16th International Energy Arena meeting, held by the Strategic Technical Economic Research Center (STEAM) on Sept. 10.
Interim Energy Minister Ali Rıza Alaboyun also said that it seems unlikely for Russia and Turkey to agree until a new government is established in Turkey.
“We will not focus on this issue during my interim ministerial process until the November election. Russia offered a gas discount of around 10.25, but we did not accept this, as we saw this as a beginning price to start negotiations. This was not a prerequisite to start talks over a gas pipeline project for us. Besides, Russia does not keep its promises on gas discounts now. All these issues will be clarified during the term of the next minister after me after the elections,” he said at a press conference on Sept. 11.
Turkey is among the largest gas buyers from Russia and BOTAŞ is the biggest trade partner for Gazprom, Aytekin noted.
“I don’t see any lack of trust between Turkey and Russia. But if Russia had made a further gas discount without naming it as a perquisite for the project we could have been in a better position,” he said, adding Turkey had taken “big risks” regarding the project.
“Russia couldn’t assess this risk properly and lost too much time. We’ll see what happens next,” Aytekin said.
Both parties ‘should come together again’
The energy ministers of the Group of 20 (G-20) countries will meet in the coming weeks in Istanbul, the deputy undersecretary said, citing such meetings as an opportunity for the two sides to talk again.
“In order to resolve the problems regarding the project, the parties need to come together again. How can the problem be resolved at a time when Turkey has been preparing for another election with an interim government? Both sides should show some flexibility,” Aytekin said.
Meanwhile, Russian energy producer Gazprom on Sept. 7 denied rumors that the Turkish Stream pipeline project had been canceled by Turkey.
A Gazprom source said the company had agreed with Turkey to initially come to an agreement concerning branch 1 before looking at the other branches.
The source said that talk was untrue of Turkey’s withdrawal from construction of the project’s second, third and fourth legs, according to Anadolu Agency and several Russian media outlets.
The Turkish Stream project was publicly announced during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Turkey on Dec. 1, 2014, after the cancellation of the South Stream project.
The Turkish Stream project is a Russian proposal that will transport Russian gas to Europe while bypassing Ukraine. It is planned to carry 63 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Europe via the Turkish-Greek border.