Russia shelves Turkish Stream pipeline project

Turkish Stream route [Gazprom]

Moscow has suspended the Turkish Stream gas pipeline project in response to Turkey shooting down a Russian jet in Syria, according to Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak.

“The negotiations on Turkish Stream have been suspended,” said Novak on Wednesday (2 December), according to RT. The pipeline was discussed in the framework of the Russian-Turkish Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation, which has been suspended, he added.

RT notes that Gazprom’s project has been on hold since the jet incident, awaiting instructions from the Russian government.

“We’re expecting the head of state, in all likelihood, could declare the freezing of Turkish Stream, or at least some kind of timeout could be announced,” an unnamed Gazprom source told Reuters yesterday.

“We are still hoping that Turkish Stream will be pushed back by a few years, rather than completely canceled,” a second Reuters source was quoted as saying.

The Turkish Stream concept suddenly appeared in August 2014, after the Bulgarian caretaker government froze the construction of South Stream. At that time, Sofia had received clear indications that Brussels would impose infringements on Bulgaria, unless the country re-negotiates its bilateral agreement with Russia for the construction of the pipeline, which contained many breaches to EU law.

>> Read: Barroso warns Bulgaria on South Stream

>> Read: South Stream ‘Plan B’ opts for route through Greece and Turkey

However, Turkish Stream remained very much a virtual project, as Russia and Turkey were unable to progress on an intergovernmental agreement.

In the meantime, the pipes destined for South Stream are still kept in Bulgaria, and the South Stream consortium is still alive. Bulgaria has repeatedly said it has not received an official notification of the termination of the project. There is little doubt that Bulgaria would be happy to return to the project, if the legal hurdles with the Commission are cleared.

Since the incident with the Russian warplane, the future of Turkish Stream has been unclear. Russian Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev assumed a few days ago that Turkish Stream and the Akkuyu nuclear power station could be among the projects affected by sanctions against Turkey.

In 2010, Moscow and Ankara signed an agreement to jointly build Turkey’s first nuclear power plant at Akkuyu, on the Mediterranean, facing Cyprus. The construction of the first unit is due to begin in 2016.

However, neither Turkish Stream, nor Akkuyu were included in the list of economic sanctions against Turkey ratified by the Russian government on Tuesday (1 December). The list included an embargo on food products and a ban on charter flights.

Problems with the Turkish Stream project have not affected the delivery of Russian gas to Turkey via the existing Blue Stream pipeline.

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