Russia and Turkey sign $ 20 billion gas deal

Dec 15, 1997 01:00 AM

Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin was welcomed by his Turkish counterpart Mesut Yilmaz when he arrived in Ankara Dec. 15 for an official two-day visit to Turkey. Chernomyrdin signed a $ 20 billion deal for the export of Russian natural gas over the next 25 years and completed other bilateral accords.
The gas will be delivered to Turkey via a 1,200-km (750-mile) pipeline, part of which will be built beneath the Black Sea. The pipeline is to cost nearly $ 3 bn.
"Today's agreements will give a new impetus to Russian-Turkish relations and this is a very important step," Chernomyrdin said.
"We have no alternative but to become good partners," Yilmaz said.
Deliveries will begin in 2000 with 3 bn cubic metres of gas annually and will reach 16 bn cubic metres a year by 2010, officials said.
Under the deal, the pipeline will be built between the Russian region of Izobilnoye and the Turkish capital, and a 400-km (250-mile) portion will pass some 2,000 metres beneath the Black Sea.
Russia is due to finance part of the pipeline between Izobilnoye and the Turkish coast via international loans and Turkey will be responsible for construction of the rest.
This was the first official visit by a Russian prime minister to Turkey.
Since 1991 Turkey and Russia have boosted trade relations, with last year's unofficial two-way trade reaching $ 14 bn, according to authorities from both countries.
However, the two have political problems, including a Russian decision to sell advanced ground-to-air missile systems to Cyprus' Greek-Cypriot government and restrictions Turkey has imposed on the passage of tankers carrying Russian oil through the Turkish straits.
Also Ankara is seeking US support for the transport of oil and natural gas from former Soviet republics in Central Asia and Transcaucasia to the West via Turkish pipelines despite Moscow's opposition.
Before travelling to Ankara, Chernomyrdin said in Moscow that Russia objects to restrictions on ships in the Bosphorus observed by Turkey since 1994 and wants them changed.
Turkey says the regulations are aimed at preventing accidents that could cause an ecological disaster for Istanbul, a city of over 10 million people.
Turkey is already buying 6 bn cubic metres of Russian gas a year via a pipeline across Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria. The capacity of this pipeline is also planned to be boosted so as to carry 14 bn cubic metres of gas within 10 years.
But some analysts here strongly criticise the deal which they say dangerously increases Turkey's dependence on Moscow in the energy field.
"If those deals is materialised, Russia will have a monopoly on the gas Turkey uses. And Moscow can use that monopoly for political reasons and to force Turkey into something in the future," said Sukru Elekdag, Turkey's former ambassador to Moscow.
Chernomyrdin also met President Suleyman Demirel and invited Yilmaz to Moscow next year.

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