US wants to see Turkey ‘on the same page’ on Russian gas

US wants to see Turkey ‘on the same page’ on Russian gas

Cansu Çamlıbel ISTANBUL
US wants to see Turkey ‘on the same page’ on Russian gas

Hürriyet Photo

Russia is using natural gas as a political tool and the United States needs to know if it is “on the same page” with Turkey regarding Russia’s actions, a top U.S. energy envoy has said.

“What Europe desperately needs is the diversification of resources,” Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs Amos Hochstein told Hürriyet in a recent interview.

“Today you have a situation where European countries are reliant almost on one supplier. And it doesn’t really matter who the supplier is. It is never good for countries’ security to rely on one supplier or to be over-reliant on one. Especially when that supplier has a tendency to use its energy supply as a political tool,” he said.

According to Hochstein, the Turkish Stream project, which will replace the South Stream project to carry Russian natural gas to Europe via the Black Sea, is not an economic project but a political project.

“What South Stream was going to do was take the same Russian gas from the same field that currently supplies Europe to the same European customers through a different route,” said the U.S. envoy.

“When it became evident that South Stream could not work, Turkish Stream was announced. But Turkish Stream essentially is the same project, financed by one country, pursued and announced not by a CEO of a company, but by a president of a country. This is not an economic project. This is a political project,” he said.

Hochstein accused Russia of using its gas supplies as a “weapon.”

“I think that shutting off gas to consumers for political purposes is a tactic that resembles using it as a weapon,” he said. “And I think this happens around the world and we need to ensure that we use it less and less. That we don’t allow countries to use it as a weapon.”

According to the envoy, Turkey has yet to make a solid decision on the Turkish Stream project.

“I haven’t heard that Turkey has made any decision,” he said. “I think we are discussing those issues together. Ultimately it is a Turkish decision, not an American decision. I think we share similar goals. We have to make sure that we believe in the same tactics about what the procedures are going to be. This is a high stakes game to some degree and we have to make sure that we are on the same page.”

Hochstein also praised Turkey’s decision to explore for oil near the Kandil Mountains in northern Iraq, where the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) headquarters are based, but noted such efforts should be made in cooperation with the Iraqi central government.

“I think that it is good,” the envoy said about the plans. “It is a very positive sign that Turkey is strengthening its relationship with the KRG [Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq] … as well as with the new government in Baghdad. I think that is very good and we have to encourage that. We have had a very close relationship with Turkey when it comes to the issues regarding Iraq and the future. We appreciate that dialogue. As far as the oil and gas exploration in the KRG region are concerned, there are a lot of companies exploring in Kurdistan, including several American and European companies. So there is no reason why Turkish companies should not be there as well.

Companies have to make their own decisions on where they invest. However, when it comes to the exploration and development of oil resources there, what we have wanted to do is to look at how the government in Baghdad and the authorities in Arbil work together. That is what we want to encourage,” he said.