Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on July 29 Moscow and Ankara are discussing the Turkish Stream gas pipeline. “In general, we are currently talking about the construction of two lines. The second line is for southwestern European consumers which can also be laid under the Black Sea and routed through Turkey,” Rossiya-24 quoted Novak as saying.
On July 26, Russian news agencies quoted Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci as saying a political decision has been taken to continue work on Turkish Stream and the Akkuyu nuclear power plant in Turkey. Zeybekci said Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, would “give the final impetus” to Turkish Stream in St Petersburg on August 9. The meeting will be the first since Russia and Turkey began normalising relations following the downing of a Russian warplane in November last year.
Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek has reportedly said Moscow and Ankara want to normalise relations as quickly as possible. In June, Erdogan wrote to Putin in a bid to normalise relations and the two leaders held a telephone conversation soon after that.
Chris Weafer, a senior adviser at Macro-Advisory in Moscow, told New Europe on June 28 it is reasonable to assume that Putin was just as keen to make peace with Turkey, as was Erdogan.
“President Putin wants to build a new southern route gas pipe into Europe to compliment Nord Stream 1 and 2. South Stream has proven to be too problematic because of Brussels and the Russians don’t seem keen to want to engage with them on this issue any longer. Turkish Stream is the only other alternative and I believe that Putin is very keen to build that pipe before competition from other areas, such as LNG [liquefied natural gas] or pipelines from Central Asia and Iran are more available,” Weafer said.
“Building the pipe across Turkey would also have the added advantage of blocking other competing pipes. Putin seems to take the view that once you have a pipeline in place you then only ever argue over price; you already have the customer locked in,” he said.
Turkish Stream would also be a big revenue earner for Turkey and could possibly open up the possibility of building the delayed Samsun-Ceyhan oil pipeline, which was planned to ease congestion in the Bosporus, and also draw Turkey closer to improving trade and investment in the Eurasia Economic Union, Weafer said.
Turning to other reasons Putin and Erdogan are keen to normalise relations, Weafer noted that more than any other action since early 2014, the cancelling of holiday flights to Turkey caused a great deal of unhappiness and resentment amongst Russian people. “It seems that the 25% food price inflation (winter 2014) or the ruble collapse were accepted as collateral damage from the weak oil price and sanctions while cancelling holidays is in an entirely different league. Russia people really like Turkish holiday resorts for price, convenience and service. This is election year after all,” Weafer said.
Moreover, Turkish companies are already big investors in Russia and are very important in some sectors such as construction. “Russia also managed to substitute a lot of food, which was blocked from Europe as a result of sanctions from or via Turkey. So the Turkish dispute risked inflation pressure in the autumn and winter or even some shortages again,” Weafer said.
Finally, the Moscow-based expert said that it is clear that some sort of lasting settlement in Syria is impossible without Turkey being involved. “Given that Russia has no intention of fully withdrawing from the region, e.g. it’s only Mediterranean naval base is in Syria, then for even purely pragmatic reasons both governments needed to re-engage,” Weafer said.
Initially published by NewEurope