Erdoğan Says He’ll Work With Putin to Develop Gas Hub in Turkey

  • Ankara will work with Moscow to create a natural-gas hub in Turkey, Turkish President Erdoğan said.
  • This is a week after Russia’s Putin offered to redirect natural-gas supplies to Europe via Turkey.
  • Putin’s proposal last week caught Turkish officials by surprise.

Russian president Vladimir Putin — whose plans to directly sell natural gas to Europe have been rebuffed — is now enlisting Turkey’s help to sell fuel to the continent instead. 

On Wednesday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan said his country will be working with Russia to create a “natural-gas hub,” Turkey’s Anadolu Agency reported.

The development comes a week after Putin offered to redirect natural-gas supplies to Europe via Turkey — a proposal that caught Turkish officials by surprise.

“It is the first time we’ve heard this. Thus it is early to make an assessment,” Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said at the time, per Reuters. “These are things that need to be discussed.”

Putin and Erdoğan met a day after Putin suggested the plan, and the Turkish leader said on October 14 that energy authorities from the two countries will start work on the proposal immediately.

“We will create a hub here with Turkish gas coming from Russia,” Erdoğan said, per Anadolu, referring to gas coming from Russia as “Turkish gas.” 

“And in his own words, Putin announced to the world that ‘Europe can get its natural gas from Turkey,” Erdoğan added to members of his AK Party in parliament on Wednesday, per Anadolu.

Turkey has held long-time ambitions to become an energy hub.

Erdoğan’s quick endorsement of Putin’s proposal for a natural-gas hub in Turkey highlights deepening ties between Moscow and Ankara, a development that’s worrying the West.

Turkey — a NATO member and a candidate country for European Union membership — has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but has not sanctioned Russia or closed its airspace to the country. Russia is one of Turkey’s top trading partners

Europe is weaning off natural-gas imports from Russia but Putin’s still trying to sell the fuel to the continent 

Erdoğan’s deal with Putin comes three weeks after leaks were discovered on the key Nord Stream pipelines that transport natural gas from Russia to Germany.

Both pipelines, which run under the Baltic Sea, have been damaged, with Denmark and Sweden telling the UN the leaks were caused by hundreds of pounds of TNT

The US and Germany are among countries that believe sabotage is involved, with some senior lawmakers in Germany openly pointing the finger at Russia. Putin, for his part, has labelled the incident “an act of international terrorism.”

Russia was already slowing natural-gas exports to Europe before the pipeline to damage, but gas supply via the two pipelines have ceased indefinitely after the leaks. The Nord Steam 1 supplied around 35% of the European Union’s gas imports

Even so, Putin is keen to continue selling natural gas to Europe. Energy is a key pillar of Russia’s economy, accounting for over one-fifth of its GDP, so cutting off the country’s energy revenue would hit its war chest for the war in Ukraine.

Last week, he said Russia could continue supplying the fuel through alternative routes, including under the Black Sea that borders Turkey in the south. 

“We could move the lost volumes from the Nord Streams along the bottom of the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea region,” Putin said at an energy conference in Moscow on October 12, according to Reuters.

This would create a new route for the transport of natural-gas to to Europe via Turkey, thus “creating the largest gas hub for Europe in Turkey,”  Putin said. 

He also offered to send natural gas to Germany through a section of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that isn’t damaged — if the EU wants it. “We are ready to supply additional volumes in the autumn-winter period,” Putin said, per Reuters.

But the German government flat out rejected the proposal to use Nord Stream 2 on October 12, saying “Russia is no longer a reliable energy supplier.”

It wasn’t not the first time Putin has suggested the use of the Nord Stream 2. Last month, he said the EU can simply turn on the new Nord Stream 2 pipeline if it wants more natural gas from Russia.

The Nord Stream 2 never started commercial operations because Germany shelved the project days before Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. Construction of the pipeline, which runs under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany, was completed in September 2021.

Alexander Novak, the Russian Deputy Prime Minister, said in September that the country’s gas exports to the EU will fall by around 50 billion cubic meters in 2022, Interfax news agency reported. This would be about one third of the 155 billion cubic meters of Russian gas the EU imported in 2021, per International Energy Agency data.

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