9/23/2009

Turkey: Focal point for two gas pipelines

BusinessWeek - European opinion-makers followed Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's visit to Turkey in August with keen interest. Among the 20 or so agreements he and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, signed was one initiating Turkey's participation in the South Stream natural-gas pipeline to Europe – coming less than a month after Turkey hosted a summit for the European Union countries participating in the Nabucco project, which is generally perceived as a rival to Russia's South Stream. Since Putin's visit to Ankara, pundits and analysts have continued to speculate on the future of Turkish-Russian relations, the dynamics of their fast-growing bilateral trade (behind the EU, Russia is Turkey's prime trade partner) or Russia being an important supplier of Ankara's growing energy demand. Ozlem Turkone, a member of parliament for Istanbul and deputy chair of the ruling Justice and Development Party's foreign affairs department said, “Becoming an energy hub for the surrounding European and Asian regions has always been Turkey's objective, and participating in both the Nabucco and South Stream pipelines is part of it. Europe needs to diversify its sources of energy, and so does Turkey. Everyone will benefit from our engagement in both projects." Similar opinions were expressed by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. Interviewed by the Turkish Kanal 7 TV channel, the minister said the South Stream project "creates a North-South energy corridor, similar to the East-West corridor of Nabucco," and therefore the two pipelines "are not substitutes for each other." South Stream will cross Turkish waters in the Black Sea before coming ashore in Bulgaria, while Nabucco is set to traverse the Caucasus and Turkey over land.