Arab News – Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin last week said that Russia has won Turkey’s backing for Moscow to build a key section of a new gas pipeline seen as a rival of an EU-backed project in Turkish waters.
Putin’s comments came after talks with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan that were the latest example of the expanding strategic relationship between Moscow and Ankara. “We have agreed that by November 10 the Turkish government will carry out an audit and will give us the permission for the construction of the South Stream pipeline”said Putin. “The Turkish Prime Minister has confirmed this intention today”, he added.
Russia wants to build a section of the South Stream pipeline through Turkey’s portion of the Black Sea to create a new route for Russian gas to Europe that will by-pass Ukraine. However Turkey is also a key player in the rival EU-backed Nabucco pipeline which is aiming to carry gas from the Caspian Sea region to Europe and is seen as a way of reducing European reliance on Russian gas.
Turkey in August agreed to allow Moscow to start surveys in its territorial waters in the Black Sea for the South Stream. Putin said the ecological surveys had already been completed while the seismological and geological surveys were 85-90 percent complete. “The energy sphere has a very important significance. In this aspect, we share a very developed cooperation”, Erdogan told Russian President Dimitry Medvedev in earlier talks at his country residence outside Moscow. “Not only in the sphere of natural gas but in crude products there exist a series of opportunities”, he added.
NATO member Turkey, which has long pursued EU membership, has sought to downplay rivalry between the two competing pipelines. Moscow has been keen to complete the South Stream ahead of its rival, with plans to go online with the pipeline’s section in Turkish waters as early as 2013. The South Stream is being jointly developed by Russian gas giant Gazprom and Italy’s Eni. Turkey, in turn, is seeking Russian support for a planned Turkish oil pipeline to be built from the Black Sea port of Samsun to Ceyhan on the Mediterranean.