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Kremlin Says Turkish Pipeline Deal Moving Ahead Despite 'Difficulties'

  • RFE/RL

Plans for a new gas pipeline between Russia, Turkey and southern Europe remain intact despite "difficulties," the Kremlin said September 23, days after Ankara said talks on the deal were frozen.

At a meeting in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed that "work would continue" on the project, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

"It is complex work which implies difficulties, but it will all follow its course," he said, indicating the two would meet again before the year's end "to coordinate their approaches" to the partnership.

"Turkey remains a very important partner for us," he said.

On September 11, Turkey said talks on the new pipeline were suspended because of preconditions imposed by Russian gas giant Gazprom over the discount Turkey wants in the price of Russian gas imports.

"I am not saying the sides have walked away from the table, I am saying that the talks are frozen," Turkish energy ministry official Sefa Sadik Aytekin said at a conference in Istanbul.

Putin announced plans for a Turkstream pipeline in December 2014, saying it would replace Russia's now junked South Stream joint venture with the European Union.

However, construction of the pipeline never got under way, and economists have grown doubtful about the feasibility of the project.

They have questioned the need for the project at a time when global energy prices are depressed and the EU is looking for alternatives to Russian gas.

The plan envisages four 900-kilometer offshore pipelines running under the Black Sea linking southern Russia to western Turkey.

The first of the four lines was to be constructed by December 2016, with the gas first going to the Turkish market and then to foreign buyers, most likely in Europe.

The pipeline would allow Russia to achieve its goal of delivering gas to Europe while avoiding the territory of its conflict-torn neighbor Ukraine.

The projected capacity of the project is 63 billion cubic meters of gas.

The project was also seen as a sign of improving relations between Russia and Turkey at a time of frosty ties with the West.

With reporting by AFP, TASS, and Interfax