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Expert scrutinizes Russian-Turkish energy deals
Expert scrutinizes Russian-Turkish energy deals
As the government in Turkey prepares to hold strategic talks with Russia at the end of the month, an energy expert questioned the degree to which energy cooperation is of mutual benefit to both countries.
Necdet Pamir, a prominent energy expert, said that while Turkey was giving certain concessions to Russia, it is questionable whether concessions taken from Russia will benefit Turkey, or just certain Turkish companies.
Pamir alludes to a dozen protocols signed between Turkey and Russia during Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s visit last in June. Russia promised to allocate oil to the pipeline that will be built between the Black Sea city of Samsun and the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan.
Until Putin's visit, Russia refused to run oil through Turkish pipelines. Not only has Russia not expressed any enthusiasm to use the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline as a transport outlet, it has turned a cold shoulder to the Samsun-Ceyhan pipeline, delaying the project. Russia has furthermore spearheaded the project to build a pipeline between Bulgaria and Greece, called Burgaz-Alexandropolis, which would bypass Turkey.
Yet Russia now seems to have changed its mind by showing interest in the Samsun-Ceyhan project. “Samsun-Ceyhan is important for Russia,” said Yuri Borovsky, from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, in an interview with Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.
“Samsun-Ceyhan will enable Russia to transport bigger quantities of oil to Ceyhan, as the pipeline Burgaz-Alexandropolis is planned to transport 30 million tons per year at the initial stage. Samsun-Ceyhan's capacity will be 50 million tons and Turkish experts say the capacity could go to 70 million tons,” said Borovsky, who was in Istanbul to attend a workshop on Turkish-Russian relations.
Noting that a refinery will be built in Ceyhan, Borovsky said Russian oil would have access to these refineries.
One of the reasons why Russia started showing increased interest in Samsun-Ceyhan comes from problems with Bulgaria. Recalling that the attitude of Bulgaria toward Russia has changed after the establishment of a new government in Sofia, Brovsky said environmental concerns are a problem for Burgaz-Alexandropolis. “There are tourist resorts in Burgaz. Europeans are investing huge amounts of money in the tourism industry. And oil is a dirty product,” he said. “In Samsun-Ceyhan, Russia has to deal with one country. Whereas with the other, Russia has to deal with two countries, Bulgaria and Greece.”
Yet despite the apparent advantages of Samsun-Ceyhan for Russia, the Russian expert stopped short of saying that Moscow prefers Samsun-Ceyhan to Burgaz-Alexandropolis. “Russia will continue to support both,” he said.
According to the Turkish expert, Russia delivered a message to the new government in Sofia saying it could do without Bulgaria. Pamir recalled that Turkey has also promised to let the gas pipeline that will cross the Black Sea to Europe pass from its territorial waters. The South Stream project, however, is known to be a direct competitor for the Nabucco project, the pipeline that will carry Caspian gas to Europe in order to reduce European dependence on Russia.
“With the Turkish green light, Putin told Ukraine that it can bypass this country,” Pamir said. Large pipelines carry Russian gas through Ukraine, but due to disagreement over gas prices, the two countries are often at odds.South Stream will enable Russia to bypass Ukraine and it was important for Russians to have the green light from Turkey to let the pipeline pass through its territorial waters in the Black Sea.
“But what did we get in return? Russians said they might consider allocating oil to Samsun-Ceyhan. There is a give and take. What the government gives comes from the nation, yet what it gets is not necessarily to benefit the nation, but a specific company,” he said. The Samsun-Ceyhan pipeline project was given to the Çalık Group without any bidding process. The group, which has recently acquired a media outlet, is regarded as being closed to the ruling Justice and Development Party.
Pamir also said Russia formed a joint partnership with another Turkish firm that is active in the domestic distribution of gas within Turkey. Russia has been longing for some time to enter the Turkish market and the joint venture formed during Putin's visit may make this possible. The Turkish firm, which created the joint venture with Russia, is also regarded as being close to the government.