Russia is on track to accomplish a major energy project aimed at cementing its ties with Turkey following a recent thaw in relations.
The government in Moscow expects officials in Ankara to make necessary decisions in one to two months to proceed with a natural gas pipeline under the Black Sea that may kick off by end-2019, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said yesterday. A draft intergovernmental agreement has been sent to Turkey, he told reporters in the Russian Far Eastern city of Vladivostok.
The Kremlin-backed Gazprom previously said that Russia was assessing several potential routes via the Black Sea through different countries. “I believe the decision has been made,” Novak said, leaving possible alternatives to Turkish Stream off the table.
For years, Russia has been striving to cut its reliance on gas transit through Ukraine, which accounts for about 40% of its exports to Europe, by building pipelines under the Baltic and the Black seas. An initially planned link to Bulgaria, known as the South Stream, was strongly opposed by the European Union.
Russia scrapped the project in 2014 and proposed an alternative route through Turkey. The latter was also shelved last year after ties between the countries soured following the downing of a Russian military jet by the Turkish air force near the Syrian border.
The tensions have eased after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan apologised for the incident in June. He is planning to meet President Vladimir Putin to discus the Turkish Stream link among other projects this weekend at G-20 summit in China, according to the Kremlin.
The Turkey gas link, originally designed to make the country a new gas transit hub for the EU and replace Ukraine from 2020, has also been delayed amid gas-supply pricing disputes. Its annual capacity, initially planned at 63bn cubic meters (2.2tn cubic feet) with four lines was later halved.
Gazprom had said it was going to build two links to Turkey before the project was shelved, one serving the Turkish consumers and the other one planned for Southern Europe. “We have no South Stream any more,” Novak told reporters yesterday, confirming the earlier plan to build two links of the Turkish Stream, with the second line “possible” for the EU.
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