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Russia considers Turkey reliable partner capable of making independent decisions

December 03, 2014, 21:36 UTC+3 MOSCOW
Turkey has both the political will and resources to implement its decisions, Russia’s Ambassador to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov said
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Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R)

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R)

© Mikhail Metzel/TASS

MOSCOW, December 3. /TASS/. Russia considers Turkey a reliable partner capable of making independent decisions, Russia’s Ambassador to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov said Wednesday on Rossiya 24 TV channel.

“Turkey is acting rather independently,” Chizhov said. “And if it comes to implementation of its own decisions, the country has both the political will and resources to implement these decisions.”

“Let’s not forget that Turkey is a member of NATO and a candidate for EU membership, but still the Turkish leadership is behaving in a rather independent manner, anyway, much more independently than, alas, the government of Bulgaria,” he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on December 1 that the project to build the South Stream gas pipeline is closed due to the European Union’s unconstructive approach to cooperation in that sphere.

Infographics Russian gas supplies to Europe: existing routes Russian gas supplies to Europe: existing routes


South Stream

Russian state-controlled energy giant Gazprom was implementing the South Stream project to diversify deliveries of natural gas to Europe bypassing Ukraine and reduce dependence on transit countries.

On June 2, the EU’s executive body, the European Commission, voiced its intention to suspend implementation of the South Stream project in EU countries, first of all in Bulgaria. European Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger’s spokeswoman Sabine Berger said the EC gave two legal grounds for such a step.

First, she said, the EC had problems about whether the project conformed to the norms of the EU’s Third Energy Package — a legislative package for the EU’s gas and electricity market. Besides, Brussels suspected Sofia of violating European regulations to hold tenders for construction of infrastructure projects and of granting privileged opportunities to Russian and Bulgarian companies.

The South Stream Transport B.V. company is an international joint venture that was organized to carry out planning, construction and subsequent operation of the gas pipeline that was supposed to be laid through the Black Sea to Bulgaria and on to Italy and Austria.

Gazprom’s share in the joint venture totals 50%, Italy’s Eni holds 20%, France’s EDF and Germany’s Wintershall Holding GmbH hold 15% each.

The sea section of South Stream was supposed to run along the bottom of the Black Sea from the Russkaya compressor plant on the Russian coast to Bulgaria’s coast. The overall length of the sea section was supposed to total over 900 kilometers (560 miles), the maximum depth — to exceed 2 kilometers and the annual design capacity to be 63 billion cubic meters.

The first supplies of gas via the gas pipeline were due in late 2015.

Now the Russkaya compressor plant will apparently be used for a new project to build a gas pipeline to Turkey, Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller said after a press conference of the Russian and Turkish leaders on Monday following Putin’s state visit to Turkey. The new pipe’s design capacity will also be 63 billion cu m a year, Miller said.

Putin’s explanation of project closure

At the news conference on December 1, the Russian leader said: “Taking into account the European Commission’s position, which is not conducive to implementing this (South Stream) project, taking into account the fact that we have only recently received permission from relevant authorities in the Netherlands — granted, it was a positive decision, and taking into account that we still have not received permission from Bulgaria, we feel Russia cannot continue implementing this project under the existing circumstances.”

“I mean that we now need to start the construction of this pipeline in the Black Sea, but we cannot do that until we have Bulgaria’s permission. I think it’s clear to everyone that it would be ridiculous to start the construction in the sea, reach the Bulgarian shore and stop. So we are forced to reconsider our participation in this project,” Putin said.

“But given Turkey’s growing demand, we are ready to not only expand the Blue Stream pipeline, as I just said, but also build another pipeline system in order to cover the growing needs of the Turkish economy. And if it is deemed expedient, we can build an additional gas hub for the South European consumers on Turkish territory, near the border with Greece,” he said.

Putin also told journalists that “with regard to South Stream, we feel that the European Commission’s position was unconstructive. It’s not that the European Commission has helped implement this project — it’s that we see obstacles being created in its implementation. If Europe does not want to implement it, then it will not be implemented.”

“We will focus our energy resource flows on other regions of the world, including through promotion and accelerated implementation of liquefied natural gas projects. We will promote them in other markets, and Europe will not receive those volumes — at least, from Russia. We feel that this does not correspond to Europe’s economic interests and is detrimental to our cooperation,” he said.

“But that was our European friends’ choice; there’s nothing special about this; ultimately, they are the buyers and it is their choice. But it makes no sense to start this project now, while we still have not received permission from Bulgaria to bring this project into Bulgaria’s exclusive economic zone, onto its territory, as you yourself understand,” Putin said.

“Would we invest hundreds of millions of dollars in a project, move across the Black Sea, and stop in front of the Bulgarian border? How do our colleagues imagine this? So we will not implement anything. Though the company that was supposed to build it is ready to start works already today, or even yesterday, and everything is ready for it,” he said.

“Incidentally, my Bulgarian colleagues have always told me that whatever happens, they would certainly implement South Stream, because this corresponds to their national interests. But here, unfortunately, this did not come to pass,” the Russian president said.

“If Bulgaria is deprived of the opportunity to act as a sovereign nation, then they should at least demand money from the European Commission to compensate for their lost profits, because direct revenues to Bulgaria’s budget alone would have been no less than 400 million euros a year. But ultimately, this is also the choice of our Bulgarian partners; it seems they have certain obligations. Still, that’s not our business - it’s our partners’ business,” he said.

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