‘I am fed up with the Bulgarians,’ Putin tells Erdoğan

‘I am fed up with the Bulgarians,’ Putin tells Erdoğan

Deniz Zeyrek ANKARA
‘I am fed up with the Bulgarians,’ Putin tells Erdoğan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin speak during the latter's visit to Ankara, Dec. 1. AA Photo

Bulgarian authorities creating difficulties is the main reason why Russia scrapped the South Stream pipeline project, Russian President Vladimir Putin told President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during their meeting on Dec. 1, according to Turkish diplomatic sources.

“I am fed up with Bulgarians. Having the West and the European Union at their back, they are challenging and opposing us. They are delaying the project,” Putin reportedly told Erdoğan during the Turkey-Russia High-Level Cooperation Council meeting.

The Russian president announced the end of the much-anticipated South Stream pipeline project at a joint press conference with Erdoğan on Dec. 1. The project was planned to carry 63 billion cubic meters of natural gas to European markets via a pipeline under the Black Sea and Bulgaria.

Putin’s unexpected statement created shockwaves not only in Moscow, but also in Sofia, which was expecting to earn some 400 million euros as a transit country.   

Putin’s declaration came as a surprise, as even his closest right-hand men heard about the cancelation of the project through his talks with the Erdoğan-led Turkish team. The scrapping of the South Stream project pushed Putin and Erdoğan to explore new routes for the pipeline, and both leaders have agreed to begin technical work for the construction of a new pipeline from Russia to Turkey. Around 50 billion cubic meters of natural gas is predicted to be marketed through a gas terminal to be located on the Turkish-Greek border.

The Syrian question was another important point of discussion between Erdoğan and Putin during their meeting. Daily Hürriyet has learned from officials familiar with the talks that Putin suggested a new solution that would see Syrian president Bashar al-Assad remaining in power.

Recalling that the Russian Foreign Ministry had recently met with the opposition Syrian National Council, Putin told Erdoğan: “We are the only party that can talk to both the opposition and the regime. Be supportive of our efforts by using your influence to let the regime and the opposition sit around the same table. Let’s try to solve the question this way.”

Citing continuing developments in Syria, as Damascus continues its offensive against its own people, Erdoğan reportedly rejected Putin’s proposal.