“Ankara doesn't want to be dependent on Russia”

Baku, Azerbaijan, Oct. 12

By Elmira Tariverdiyeva – Trend:

Ankara doesn’t want to become too dependent on Russia due to the agreement on the implementation of the Turkish Stream project and wants to maintain its strong relationship with Azerbaijan, Frank Umbach, senior associate at the Centre for European Security Strategies (CESS GmbH), told Trend Oct. 12.

The bilateral reconciliation is in political and economic interests of both Turkey and Russia, but it also has still its limits and constraints and is perceived with mistrust in the EU, US and Saudi Arabia, said Umbach, who is also a research director at the European Centre for Energy and Resource Security (EUCERS) of the King’s College, London.

Russia and Turkey signed an intergovernmental agreement Oct. 10 on the implementation of the Turkish Stream project, which envisages deliveries of Russian natural gas to Turkey and Eastern Europe.

In contrast to the original plan of the Turkish Stream with four pipelines and a total capacity of 63 billion cubic meters (replacing the previous South Stream Pipeline Project), for the time being, only one or two pipelines appear realistic given the fact that one pipeline (by circumventing Ukraine) will replace Russia's Balkan Pipeline supplying Turkey, he noted.

The capacity of the Blue Stream Pipeline, via which Russia supplies gas to Turkey, is still not fully used (only 60-70 percent), he said adding that Turkey’s natural gas consumption tripled from 15 billion cubic meters to 48 billion cubic meters – experiencing the second biggest increase in gas demand worldwide (only behind China).

Turkey is facing one of the worldwide highest energy demand growth in the mid- and long-term future, said the expert adding that in 2014, Russia supplied around 55 percent of Turkey’s gas demand (27.4 billion cubic meters).

“While Russia has not cut its present gas supplies to Turkey, the geopolitical conflict with Russia has threatened the renewal of two supply contracts with a total of 36 billion cubic meters of Turkey’s annual gas imports: Gazprom’s supply contracts for its western Balkan route gas pipeline needs to be renewed in 2021 and its Black Sea Blue Stream gas pipeline route – in 2025,” noted Umbach.

“Any third or fourth Turkish Stream pipeline supplying Europe via Turkey needs to overcome complex regulatory issues with the support of the European Commission,” he said. “As the European Council of EU member states and the European Commission have made clear since 2015, Ukraine's transit status for Russian gas supplies to Europe is in the interests of both Ukraine and Europe.”

In this regard, Russia's Turkish Stream project is also complicating Russia's Nord Stream 2 project [which runs from Russia to Europe through Baltic countries] in addition to its overall strategic objectives to reduce its gas supply dependence on Russia and to increase its diversification of gas imports, according to the expert.

He added that given Russia's recent military activities in Syria and the present mood in the European Parliament, the European Commission and many EU member states, Russian gas supply projects need to be interpreted in a new energy and foreign policy environment.

The bilateral reconciliation between Turkey and Russia is at least partly been fueled by their rather deteriorating relations with the US and the EU, believes Umbach, but both the West and Turkey have a mutual strategic interest in the full implementation of the Southern Gas Corridor and TANAP projects.

Ankara also doesn’t want to become too dependent on Russia and wants to maintain its strong relationship with Azerbaijan and will still seek a greater diversification of its gas imports, said the expert, adding that despite strong common energy and economic interests, the energy and foreign policy fields will also remain areas of mutual competition between Moscow and Ankara.

Thus, one of the major lessons since 2015 has been that despite strong common interests, both sides were willing to reduce their bilateral relations from a strategic partnership to a serious geopolitical confrontation of interests, added the expert.

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