Eyeing Increased Europe Exports, Putin Teases Turkish Gas Hub to Eager Erdogan
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)

Eyeing Increased Europe Exports, Putin Teases Turkish Gas Hub to Eager Erdogan

As Russian, Turkish leaders discuss gas deal on summit sidelines, Kyiv warns that Moscow could deliberately attack own pipeline to Turkey in bid to pressure European states seeking fresh energy sources in wake of war

Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested during a meeting Thursday with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Turkey could be an energy hub through which more Russian gas would be exported to Europe.

Putin, who was meeting Erdogan on the sidelines of a summit in Kazakhstan, said that the hub could help regulate energy prices.

“We could easily regulate [prices] at a normal market level, without any political overtones,” Putin said, according to the Associated Press, which added that Erdogan had not publicly commented on the suggestion.

Omer Özkizilcik, a foreign policy and security analyst based in Ankara, told The Media Line that such infrastructure would allow Turkey to achieve its goal of being a regional center for energy.

Turkey relies on Russia for more than 40 percent of its gas and Ankara has striven for years to find a more lucrative role in the energy market.

In 2018, it used naval ships to block an Italian company’s gas drilling boat that was headed to the coast of Cyprus, a member of the European Union.

Turkey had been drilling for gas off the coast of the island, which is partly controlled by a Turkish Cypriot government recognized by Ankara.

“Turkey wants to get its fair share from the gas in the eastern Mediterranean and wants to become a part of all the projects implemented there,” Özkizilcik said.

Analysts say that Turkey has felt boxed in by its exclusion from a gas forum in the eastern Mediterranean made up of some of its regional rivals, including Greece and Egypt.

The group also includes Israel, with which Ankara has recently restored diplomatic relations and has consistently expressed interest in cooperating on energy.

Kerim Has, a Moscow-based political analyst focusing on Russia and Turkey, told The Media Line that such a pipeline is possible in the long-term future if the Kremlin does want to give Turkey an important role in energy security in Europe.

However, he was skeptical that a new pipeline would be created in Turkey, as it would take years and would require European countries taking Russian gas after they said they would decrease their reliance on the country.

European Union states moved to decrease their reliance on gas from Russia after its full scale invasion of Ukraine in February.

“It’s not realistic at this moment,” Has said. “It seems to me that it’s just a political gesture from the Kremlin to Turkey.”

Such a comment by Putin could be a boost for Erdogan whose popularity has declined amid massive inflation and a declining lira.

While much of Europe is concerned about how it will keep its economies going and homes heated due to a decrease in reliance of Russian gas, Erdogan has played up Turkey’s lack of supply issues.

“With the upcoming winter season, concerns regarding energy and food are increasing in the West. We have no such concerns,” he said Monday, according to the Turkish state news agency.

Erdogan has been strengthening relations with the Putin regime for years.

Turkey bought Russia’s S-400  missile defense system, to the ire of its NATO allies, and has maintained relations with the country since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, welcoming Russian oligarchs while some were being sanctioned by Western countries.

At the same time, Turkey has opposed Russia in several battlefields, including its neighbor Syria, and has provided highly effective armed drones to Ukraine as it repels the Russian invasion.

Ankara also voted in favor of a United Nations General Assembly motion condemning Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian land.

”Turkey is maintaining a difficult balancing act,” said Özkizilcik.

“If Turkey would only support Ukraine and not… increase its relationship with Russia and other  fields, this will hinder the Turkish mediator role and also will come with risks for Turkey.”

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry warned Thursday of possible false flag sabotage on the TurkStream gas pipeline that runs between Russia and Turkey, as Erdogan and Putin met.

The ministry stated on its website that Russia could carry out such an potential attack on its own pipeline is to “disrupt supply routes” and pressure countries to change their energy policies.

Hours before the ministry statement was posted, a Kremlin spokesperson said that several people had been arrested after they tried to damage the TurkStream pipeline on Russian territory, the Russian state news agency TASS reported.

The Nord Stream pipelines, which were meant to send Russian gas to Europe, ruptured at the end of last month, with some countries believing this was sabotage.

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