Gazprom delays pipeline project amid Russia-Turkey tensions
MOSCOW - Russian gas giant Gazprom said Wednesday its TurkStream pipeline project with Turkey would be delayed as tensions between Moscow and Ankara peak over Russia's intervention in the Syrian conflict.
"Given that there is no intergovernmental agreement, the timeframe will be postponed," Russian news agencies quoted Gazprom deputy CEO Alexander Medvedev as saying, referring to a deadline next year for building the first of four pipelines.
"How long it is postponed for depends on when the agreement gets signed. If the deadline is pushed back by a year, that won't be a tragedy," he added.
Russia has enraged Ankara by launching air strikes against Islamic State and other targets in Syria, Turkey's southern neighbour, in a move Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called a "grave mistake."
Russian warplanes twice violated the airspace of the NATO member in recent days, leading Turkish authorities to complain to the Russian embassy.
Medvedev however insisted that political tensions were not a factor in the countries' current failure to reach an agreement on the TurkStream project, with talks frozen last month due to disagreements over the price of Russian gas imports.
Russian President Vladimir Putin had announced the plan for a TurkStream pipeline in December 2014, saying it would replace Russia's now scrapped South Stream joint venture with EU firms.
But the construction of the pipeline -- which had been scheduled to start in June -- never properly got under way.
Putin and Erdogan had agreed last month -- before Russia's bombing campaign in Syria -- that the work on the project would continue in spite of difficulties.
The TurkStream plan envisages four 900-kilometre (560-mile) offshore pipelines running under the Black Sea linking southern Russia to western Turkey.
Its construction would allow Russia to achieve its goal of delivering gas to Europe while avoiding conflict-torn neighbour Ukraine.
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.
Facing a cold shoulder from Europe and increased competition at home, Russia's Gazprom has struggled in recent months to assert dominance on the global energy market.
On Tuesday, Gazprom head Alexei Miller said the TurkStream pipeline would have a capacity of 32 billion cubic metres, half the capacity that had been initially outlined in the project.