Turkey, Russia strike strategic Turkish Stream gas pipeline deal
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hand with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) during a press conferance on October 10, 2016 in Istanbul. AFP photo
Turkey and Russia signed the strategic Turkish Stream gas pipeline agreement late on Oct. 10 amid vows by both countries to intensify their relations following a hiatus due to Turkey’s downing of a Russian jet in November 2015.
The pipeline will carry Russian natural gas to Turkey and on to Europe under the Black Sea.
During the signing ceremony with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said ministers and experts would continue to hold bilateral talks after the deal, adding that they would also hold talks focusing on the economy, politics, defense, tourism and culture.
"Today has been a full day with President Putin of discussing Russia-Turkish relations ... I have full confidence that the normalization of Turkish-Russian ties will continue at a fast pace," Erdoğan said.
The president also said they reached consensus on the acceleration of the process for the Akkuyu nuclear plant, which will be constructed in the Mediterranean province of Mersin.
In addition, Putin also added that the two countries had reached a consensus on a discount in natural gas prices as part of the deal.
Putin added that Moscow had lifted restrictions on Turkish citrus exports to Russia.
Erdoğan said they further discussed Syria and the Euphrates Shield Operation in detail as well as strategies and cooperation regarding humanitarian aid to Aleppo. Putin said Moscow was on the same page with Ankara about delivering humanitarian aid to Aleppo.
"We share the same view that every effort should be made for humanitarian aid to be delivered to Aleppo," he added.
"The only issue is the safety of the delivery of humanitarian aid," Putin said.
According to the Russian leader, Moscow and Ankara also agreed to intensify military contacts.
The signing of the deal came after a bilateral meeting between Erdoğan and Putin who was in Istanbul to attend the 23rd World Energy Congress.
Russia’s Gazprom and Turkey’s BOTAŞ in 2014 signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the construction of the Turkish Stream gas pipeline, with a capacity of 63 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas per year from Russia to Turkey across the Black Sea.
However, talks on the project were halted last year after Turkey shot down a Russian air force jet and Moscow retaliated with trade sanctions but since then the two countires have made significant progress to mend relations.
Erdoğan said in August at a joint news conference with his Russian counterpart that building the gas pipeline quickly was a priority.
On Sept. 7, Gazprom said it had received first regulatory approvals from Turkey, allowing the project to move into implementation phase.
The meeting of the two leaders marked the third time after bilateral relations were put back on track in August since the jet crisis.
This was Putin’s first trip to Turkey since a bilateral crisis sparked by Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian war plane over Syria last November. He and Erdoğan have met on two occasions since a June deal to normalize ties after the plane crisis - in Putin’s home city of Saint Petersburg and then on the sidelines of the G-20 in China.
Earlier, speaking at the 23rd World Energy Congress , Erdoğan had said Ankara was positive about the deal.
The president also said Turkey is seeking ways to implement plans for a third nuclear power plant and aims to produce 10 percent of its electricity from nuclear power in the coming years.
Russia is currently developing Turkey’s first nuclear plant by the Mediterranean.
Putin said the need to develop the Turkish Stream natural gas project had been stressed in his talks with Erdoğan, adding that Russia also actively planned to expand it hydrocarbon exports eastward to China, Japan and India.
“Russia will further interact in energy with all interested parties for mutual beneficial partnerships on an equal footing,” he added.
Putin went on to say that contrary to the idea of the age of hydrocarbons coming to a close, and although the world hydrocarbon resources had undergone major changes, he believed that “there are no real grounds behind such far reaching conclusions, at least for now.”
Russia supports efforts to limit oil production and urges other exporters and producers to do the same, Putin said.
“We support the recent OPEC initiative aimed at limiting oil production and we expect that at the OPEC meeting in November this idea will be presented in such a way to send a positive message to markets and investors. Of course this decision will help curb the speculative activity and avoid new price fluctuations,” he added.
“Not only producers and exporters, but consumers should also act in a responsible way. Energy security can be safeguarded if we pay attention to others’ interests. We stand for firm compliance with the principles of free trade and fair play,” Putin said.
Meanwhile, also speaking at the event Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev said his country’s energy investments in Turkey would reach $20 billion.
Aliyev said Azerbaijan and Turkey had built energy infrastructure, such as pipelines, to ensure both countries’ energy security.
“On a daily basis, Turkey plays a crucial role in the energy security of the region,” he added.
He signaled that growth in Turkey’s prosperity is important not only for Turkey as a leader in defining energy policy in the world, but also for the rest of the world.
Aliyev highlighted projects, which have been implemented in Turkey, to transfer Azerbaijan’s oil and gas, and said Azerbaijan’s gas will be delivered to global markets via four projects under the South Gas Corridor totaling $45 billion in value.
He hailed the Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) as playing a crucial role in providing energy security in the region.
“We took the first step for the TANAP in 2012 in Turkey, which is a significant part of the South Gas Corridor, under the leadership of Azerbaijan and Turkey. The TANAP is an important agreement and many countries might become a part of this project,” Aliyev said.
He also suggested that projects to transfer Azerbaijan’s oil via Turkey should be stepped up.