Russia is considering cooperation with Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean if energy projects in the region are deemed commercially viable, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak told Anadolu Agency (AA) on Friday.
"There are successful energy projects involving Russian companies in the Mediterranean. For example, Rosneft is involved in the development of the Zohr site. In such initiatives, cooperation is prioritized by economic interests," Novak said in an exclusive interview with AA ahead of 16th term meeting of Turkey-Russia Joint Economic Commission on Friday.
Turkish and Russian companies may join forces for activities in the region, Novak added, signaling implicit support for Turkey's longstanding diplomatic efforts to bring peace to the Cypriot island and the East Mediterranean region by urging regional countries to share the riches, particularly natural gas resources.
Following the discoveries in the region and unilateral drilling activities of Greek Cypriot administration, Turkey declared its support for the rights of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). Ankara also sent its drilling ships to the region after TRNC awarded Turkey's national oil company Turkish Petroleum the drilling rights in the Eastern Mediterranean sea off the Cyprus Island coast.
Turkey’s first seismic vessel -- the Barbaros Hayrettin Pasa, which was purchased from Norway in 2013 -- has been conducting exploration in the Mediterranean since April 2017.
Since this spring, Ankara has sent two drilling vessels -- Fatih and most recently Yavuz -- to the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting the rights of Turkey and the TRNC over the resources of the region.
The Turkish-flagged drillship, Fatih, launched offshore drilling operations this May in an area 75 kilometers (42 nautical miles) off the western coast of Cyprus.
Following Turkey's drilling activities in the region, the European Council published a declaration on July 15 after a meeting of the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council, which was attended by foreign ministers of its member states.
The council said in the statement that in light of "Turkey’s continued and new illegal drilling activities, the Council will suspend negotiations on the Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement and agree not to hold the Association Council and further meetings of the EU-Turkey high-level dialogues for the time being".
On July 17, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova slammed the conclusion. Speaking at a news conference in Moscow, Zakharova said such sanctions are not "tools of diplomacy" and could not be used as a basis for international politics.
- TurkStream project in final construction stage
Another significant initiative that will benefit both Russia and Turkey is the TurkStream natural gas project to transfer Russian gas to Turkey, Novak said.
"The final stage of the project's construction has been reached and direct deliveries of natural gas to Turkey will start next year,” Novak said while expressing his gratitude to the Turkish partners for ensuring the project progressed on schedule.
Novak explained that with increased demand for natural gas in Europe, Gazprom has signed a roadmap with Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and the Central European Gas Hub at Baumgarten in Austria, in compliance with European regulations for gas shipments.
Construction of TurkStream’s second line to reach Eastern Europe has already started.
"Russian gas is competitive and we expect the TurkStream route will be one of the most important for natural gas deliveries to Europe," Novak said.
The first line of TurkStream gas, with a capacity of 15.75 billion cubic meters designated for Turkey’s domestic market, is due to be ready by the year-end, while the route for the second line aimed at bringing Russian gas further to Europe has not yet been defined.
- Construction of Akkuyu NPP at full steam
Novak hailed the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) as a project that echoes the importance of Russia and Turkey's cooperation. The project has seen Turkey and Russia form a joint venture for the construction and operation of the plant and has seen many Turkish manufacturers participate in the project.
Novak called on Turkish companies to continue project engagement through consultations that are currently taking place.
"The construction of the project is continuing at full steam, and we expect to put it into operation in 2023. All project issues in terms of construction costs have been resolved,” he said.
Citing the examples of the TurkStream and Akkuyu NPP projects, Novak said new cooperation opportunities would emerge in both economic and commercial fields for Turkey and Russia.
Reporting by Emre Gurkan Abay in Moscow
Writing by Firdevs Yuksel