Russia says wins Turkey's support to major energy projects

Russia said it has won Turkish support for all its major oil, gas and nuclear projects.

Russia says wins Turkey's support to major energy projects

Russia said on Wednesday it has won Turkish support for all its major oil, gas and nuclear projects while carefully avoiding its usual harsh criticism of the rival trans-Turkish EU-backed Nabucco gas pipeline.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told a news conference after talks with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan Ankara had pledged to fully clear Russian gas pipeline project South Stream before November 2010, when building is due to begin.

"We have an agreement that before November 10, 2010 ... the Turkish government will make all the necessary judgements and issue a construction permit. In the course of today's talks Mr Erdogan confirmed these intentions," Putin said.

"I very much hope this work will be finished as planned," he said, adding that the work on South Stream was going according to plan with environmental, geological and seismic studies near completion.

Putin also said the project, which apart from Russia's gas export monopoly Gazprom involves Italy's ENI, may benefit from an inter-governmental agreement between Russia, Turkey and Italy.

Russia designed South Stream to deliver gas to southern Europe under the Black Sea to rival Nabucco and bypass Ukraine.

But the need to bypass Ukraine may decrease if Kiev elects a more pro-Russian president at an election this month and save indebted Gazprom billions of euros it needs to spend on South Stream.

Some analysts have suggested Gazprom may even one day join Nabucco, which is so far lacking volumes to make the project profitable.

Turkey aspires to become a key transit hub for Europe, but is facing a tough balancing game between rival projects supported by Moscow and the European Union.

Turkey and Russia have in recent years deepened their ties by signing a raft of agreements from gas and oil pipelines to nuclear power plants, and have sought closer security cooperation in the Caucasus region.

Turkey, which is using the energy card to promote its membership of the EU, has insisted that South Stream and Nabucco are not rivals, but complementary.

Putin said the governments of Italy, Turkey and Russia should also consider signing a deal to support an oil link between Turkey's Black Sea coast and the Mediterranean.

He said cooperation between the two states should involve asset swaps between major firms and added Russian firms were ready to take part in privatisation of Turkey's state assets.

Both Putin and Erdogan pledged to increase the use of national currencies in bilateral trade, currently at $15.3 billion, which the leaders want to boost to $100 billion within the next five years.

Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin also signed a memorandum on building nuclear power plants in Turkey in a sign Russian firms would be given a second chance to build Ankara's first plant.

Turkey cancelled a previous tender to build a nuclear power station, after a court earlier ruled the tender, won by Russian Inter RAO and Atomstroiexport and Turkey's Park Teknik, invalid due to problems it cited with the pricing of electricity from the plant.

Karabakh

Putin told Erdogan that Turkey should not link the problem of Nagorno-Karabakh, a region of Azerbaijan, that was occupied by Armenia, to its bilateral relations with Armenia.

"Both the Nagorno-Karabakh problem and the Turkish-Armenian problem are very complicated by nature. I do not think it is a right thing to tie them into one package," Putin said.

"It is unwise from both tactical and strategic point of view to package these problems," he added.

Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993 in protest over Yerevan's backing for Karabakh separatists. The two countries signed accords last October to establish diplomatic relations and open their border.

The accords are still pending parliamentary approval.

Turkey says it will go through with its deal with Armenia only if the latter makes concessions to Azerbaijan on Nagorno-Karabakh but Armenia says attempts to link a thaw in relations with the Karabakh issue would not work. For a factbox on Russian gas pipeline projects

Reuters
Last Mod: 14 Ocak 2010, 00:31
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