Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his government and that of Russia have instructed their respective energy authorities to immediately begin technical studies on a Russian proposal that would turn Turkey into a gas hub for Europe.
Russian President Vladimir Putin this week floated the idea of exporting more gas through the TurkStream gas pipeline running beneath the Black Sea to Turkey after gas deliveries to Germany through the Baltic Sea’s Nord Stream pipeline were halted.
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Erdogansaid Russian and Turkish energy authorities would work together to designate the best location for a gas distribution centre, adding that Turkey’s Thrace region, bordering Greece and Bulgaria, appeared to be the best spot.
“Together with Mr Putin, we have instructed our Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources and the relevant institution on the Russian side to work together,” said Erdogan, who on Thursday met the Russian president on the sidelines of a summit in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana.
“They will conduct this study. Wherever the most appropriate place is, we will hopefully establish this distribution centre there.”
This was Erdogan’s first public statement on the Russian proposal, reflecting Turkey’s long-voiced desire to become an energy hub.
“There will be no waiting,” Erdogan was quoted as saying.
On Friday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the Russian proposal needs “to be studied well”.
“There are investments that need to be made, they need to be examined,” he said during a joint news conference with his Qatari counterpart.
“This is a matter of supply and demand. How much of Europe … is ready to buy gas from such a project? This needs to be worked out together.”
Cavusoglu added that Turkey wanted to alleviate Europe’s energy crisis.
“The weakening of Europe in all aspects is not in Turkey’s interest. On the contrary, it is against [Turkey’s interests],” Cavusoglu said.
Energy analysts have, however, questioned the likelihood of the proposal to ship gas to Europe via Turkey getting off the ground. European leaders have criticised Russia’s reliability as an energy supplier, calling Russia’s cuts in natural gas a political bid to divide them over their support for Ukraine after Moscow’s invasion.
Germany this week rejected another proposal by Putin to step up gas flows to Europe via a link of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline under the Baltic Sea – a pipeline that has never been operational. Moscow cut off the parallel Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline over what it claimed were technical problems.
Asked to comment on an assertion by Putin that Russia had foiled an attack on the TurkStream gas pipeline, Erdogan said Turkey was taking every step necessary to secure the pipeline.