Gul Pushing Stronger Energy Ties on Russia Visit

MOSCOW (Combined Sources)–Turkish President Abdullah Gul is in Russia on a four day trip in a bid to push through energy projects that would boost its role in the region and take advantage of the fallout from the latest Russia-Ukraine row.

The trip comes a month after a row between Russia and Ukraine over natural gas prices that cut Russian gas supplies and raised questions about the security of Russia’s trans-Balkan pipeline that feeds parts of Europe.

Meanwhile, an unidentified Kremlin official speaking in anticipation of Gul’s arrival Thursday said that Russia expects to increase natural gas supplies to Turkey to 25.5 billion cubic meters in 2009, up by 1.7 billion from 2008, RIA Novosti reported. The official also said that bilateral trade was over $30 billion, making note of both the major presence of Turkish construction firms operating in Russia and the large tourist flows from Russia to Turkey.

Relations between Turkey and its largest trading partner Russia have been rocky at times, especially after last year’s war between Georgia and Russia, but Ankara is looking to the Kremlin to boost gas supplies to relieve chronic gas shortages and turn the country into the energy hub it seeks to be.

European Union candidate Turkey has tried to make good on its location between Europe and some of the world’s largest energy reserves to boost its importance as a transit country for energy supplies headed to Europe.

Energy hub status, Ankara argues, would give Turkey the right to charge higher fees for supplies that cross its territory.

"The topics that are going to be discussed, the issues on the table will be … the Blue Stream, the Samsun-Ceyhan pipeline and the nuclear tender," an Energy Ministry official said.

Analysts say the January gas row may make Russia more eager to agree to a pipeline deal to export its gas to Europe through a pipeline over Turkey.

The planned line would run parallel to the existing Blue Stream pipeline that travels to Turkey under the Black Sea delivering a daily 50 million cubic meters of gas. A Gazprom official previously said Turkey had the power to make good on a second Blue Stream once the current pipeline’s through flow nears capacity.

Turkey is also likely to push Moscow to send Russian and Kazakh oil from the Caspian Pipeline Consortium, which is to be expanded, through Turkey’s trans-Anatolian pipeline. The pipeline would give Russia a way to transport its oil from the port of Novorossisk to the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, without relying on the current trade route that runs through Turkey’s congested Bosphorus Strait.

The talks are also likely to deal with the Russian-led consortium of Atomstroiexport, Inter Rao and Turkey’s Park Teknik, whose sole bid in a nuclear tender last year raised criticism from analysts on the competitiveness of the tender. The consortium revised its bid after initially offering to sell power from the planned nuclear power station, seen at a cost of $7.5 billion, at three times the current market rate.

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