Russia’s Turkish Stream gas pipeline to go ahead

After more than a year on hold amid a diplomatic blow out between Russia and Turkey, the ambitious plan to build a new undersea pipeline to ship Russian gas to Europe is back on the agenda.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday oversaw the signing of a deal to expedite the Turkish Stream pipeline under the Black Sea at a meeting of the two men in Istanbul.

The pair said there was common ground on moving ahead with the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant, as well, and they praised the "full speed" normalisation of relations between the two countries, both of which now have strained relations with the west.

Talks on the pipeline were suspended in July last year over disagreements on gas price discounts for Turkey.

Then the project seemed doomed after a Turkish jet shot down a Russian warplane in November, sparking anger and the hasty erection of trade barriers between the two countries, which are at loggerheads over the regime of Syria’s President Bashar Al-Assad.

But speaking to reporters after the meetings last night President Erdogan said it had been "a very efficient day".

"As a result of our work, respective agreements were finalized, which were ultimately signed thanks to our work this evening," he said, according to the Kremlin. "I am absolutely confident that the normalisation of Turkish-Russian relations will proceed at full speed."

Russia’s Vladimir Putin said gas price discounts had now been agreed, and hailed the ending of trade barriers erected after the Russian plane was shot down.

Putin also spoke enthusiastically about the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant.

"I would like to point out that this is not simply about the construction of a power plant. This is about the creation of an entire new high-tech energy sector in Turkey with technology transfer and personnel training," he said, adding: "Over 200 young future Turkish experts are currently studying in Russia."

The pair even pledged to cooperate on humanitarian aid in Syria.

"We had a special discussion of which strategy we can choose for ourselves to render humanitarian aid to the residents who are in a very difficult position, in particular, in Aleppo," Erdogan told reporters.

Putin blamed the US for humanitarian crisis in Syria.

"I informed our Turkish partner that we proposed to our US colleagues that we do everything in our power to withdraw Syrian troops and opposition forces from Castello Road which can and should be used to deliver humanitarian aid to Aleppo, so that provocations involving strikes on humanitarian convoys will not happen again," he said. "Our US partners actually refuse to do this. They are either unable or unwilling for some reason."

The Turkish Stream plan sees Russian natural gas piped under the Black Sea to Turkey and then onward to Europe through Greece.

It replaced an earlier plan, called South Stream, under which the pipeline would land at Burgas, Bulgaria. Russia cancelled South Stream in December 2014 in the face of opposition from the European Union.

Image: Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meeting in Istanbul on 10 October 2016 (Kremlin)

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