Turkey eyes Russia fuel to make up for Iran loss
ISTANBUL / ANKARA – Hurriyet – 3.12.2012 – Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives in Turkey for key talks that are set to focus on trade and energy. The two countries already do booming bilateral business, but the plan is to boost their mutual trade to $100 billion a year.
Energy ties will be dominating Russian President Vladimir Putin’s landmark visit to Turkey today, as the two countries bid to increase the $32 billion annual bilateral trade to an ambitious $100 billion. Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak’s remarks on the eve of Putin’s arrival today indicated that Russia remains the largest alternative for energy-hungry Turkey as it seeks to replace the declining oil exports from Iran. Russia would be willing to increase its gas supplies to Turkey this winter if Ankara requests it and an agreement is reached, Novak said before a meeting with his Turkish counterpart Taner Yıldız. Speaking to reporters during a visit to the Turkish Black Sea town of Karasu near Istanbul, Novak said Russia had upped the winter gas flow to Turkey in the past and that “if needed and a joint agreement was reached, it is possible to do this again,” Reuters reported yesterday.
A total of nine deals are expected to be signed during the Russian mission’s visit to TurkeyRussia is Turkey’s largest gas provider with two main pipelines: the Blue Stream that carries 16 billion cubic meters (bcm) of fuel from underneath the Black Sea and the 6 billion bcm capacity West Line that will be soon used by four private firms rather than by the Turkish state.Russia is also building Turkey’s very first nuclear plant in the southern province of Mersin. Novak said in a press meeting with Yıldız that “Russia would like to be involved in the construction of other nuclear plants in Turkey.” Yıldız said Turkey’s priority was the second plant, for which Canada, China, Japan and South Korea are racing.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said after meeting with Putin in July in Moscow that the target in mutual trade was to reach $100 billion in trade. Russian authorities also confirm such an assertive goal, which largely depends on Turkish energy imports.
Russian exports to Turkey reached $21.8 billion in the first 10 months of this year, while Turkey sold a little more than $5.5 billion worth of goods to its neighbor. As energy items stand for more than 70 percent of Russian exports, Turkey mainly sells machinery, equipment and food products to Moscow. There are around 3,000 Turkish companies active in Russia, according to Moscow sources. Turkish companies have built more than 800 buildings in Russia, employing around 100,000 locals. Some 3.5 million Russian tourists have visited Turkey this year.
‘No Syria tensions’
Commenting on Putin’s visit on a televised interview on Dec. 1, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said the two countries sometimes experienced splits in opinion, but that this should not define their relationship. “Neither Russia nor Turkey has ever developed a Cold War strategy over these splits,” he said. “No one should take serious a scenario that Turkey and Russia will experience tension over Syria.” The two countries are working to overcome these differences, Davutoğlu said. “At the point where we cannot overcome [these splits] we come to a point where Turkish-Russian relations are more important than all these fluctuations.”
There is no conflict between Turkey and Russia regarding the Syria issue and Russia also realizes the fact that Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad is losing his grip on power, a senior Turkish official told the Hürriyet Daily News in a recent interview.
“They agree with us that the bloodshed should stop and that things need to change in Syria, but they do not see an alternative to the al-Assad regime yet,” the official added. Turkey’s confiscation of cargo from a Moscow-Damascus passenger plane in October, on claims that it was carrying military goods to the Syrian army, increased the tension between the two countries over the issue.
However, Russian Ambassador to Ankara Vladimir Ivanovski told reporters Nov. 30 that both sides had decided not to escalate the problem and that they had “closed the case.” Turkish and Russian leaders have realized 13 mutual meetings over the last decade. One of the most significant was then-President Dimitriy Medvedev’s Turkey visit, when the two countries undersigned a strategic deal to found ÜDİK, a council to frame all relations. Putin’s meeting with Erdoğan, which was initially scheduled for last month before it was postponed, will also put an end to the Russian leader’s break in travel since his visit to Tajikistan on Oct. 5.