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BUDAPEST, February 17. /TASS/. Russia is ready to discuss with its European Union partners alternative options to South Stream project but will not turn down gas cooperation with Turkey, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday after talks with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
Commenting on agreements with Turkey to build a new gas pipeline, Putin said, "We are ready to build it in a volume enough to supply gas via Turkey to the European Union. We want to punish no one or take umbrage at anyone." "If it is possible from the logistics point of view, we are ready to go further to Bulgaria - the European Commission is already asking us to do that; we are ready to go to Greece," Putin said. "It means we are not going no close anything, we are not going to isolate ourselves from anyone."
According to the Russian leader, Russia has never abandoned South Stream-related plans. "They simply did not let us implement it," Putin said with regret, citing the European Parliament’s decision of April 2014 to recognize the South Stream project as "not merely unpromising but even harmful to the European Union." After that, they demanded Bulgaria stop preparatory work. Altogether, four months later, the Dutch regulator issued a permit to build the seabed sections of the pipeline (South Stream was registered as an international company in the Netherlands), which "came unexpectedly for me," Putin noted. But it was impossible to issue a permit to an Italian construction company to begin construction works at sea, since there was no permission to enter Bulgaria’s territory. "It is absurd!," Putin said. "We simply were forced to close this project, they did not let us implement it."
So, from now on, in his words, Russia will be guided by considerations of logistics in choosing partners in this project - "where it will be more economical, more profitable." Further cooperation with the European Union is possible, "if they help us, but if they hamper, it is not our choice," Putin underscored. "If they don’t hamper, a section of the South Stream might be implemented via Turkey, including using our joint ventures with Hungary, Serbia, we can go to Austria - everything is possible should our partners show interest in cooperation."
At the same time, Putin stressed, Russia will not abandon cooperation with Turkey. "Not only because it is indecent but because we don’t want to find ourselves an awkward situation - today the European Commission refuses, tomorrow it agrees and the day after tomorrow it might refuse again," he said. "We call for a serious long-term partnership, like we used to have years ago."