Putin lands in Ankara for Russian-Turkish energy drive

Putin lands in Ankara for Russian-Turkish energy drive
3 min read
10 October, 2016
Despite backing opposing sides in Syria, Putin is in Turkey to push energy deals and the two counties look set to finally end their acrimonious relationship.
Although Putin and Erdogan are divided on Syria, they could come together over gas [Getty]

Russian President Vladimir Putin is set for a visit to Turkey on Monday for talks with Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Ankara is hosting an important energy meeting this week, while Russia and Turkey are looking for joint energy projects that could finally patch up months of fractured ties.

Only a few months ago, Putin and Erdogan were exchanging acrimonious accusations over Syria.

But the pair are expected to reaffirm their commitment to the planned TurkStream gas pipeline to pump Russian gas under the Black Sea to Europe.

Meanwhile, Russian engineers are set to construct Turkey's first nuclear power station.

Mending ties

The meeting in Istanbul will be their third encounter since their governments agreed in June to normalise ties.

This followed Turkey's shooting down of a Russian warplane over Syria in November 2015, sparking their worst crisis in ties since the Cold War.

Putin and Erdogan will meet on the opening day of the World Energy Congress, which brings together players across energy industries and is a sign of Turkey's determination to be a global hub in the sector.

Russia and Turkey remain at odds over the Syria conflict, with Moscow a key backer of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad but Turkey making his exit from power its key strategic aim.

Analysts have long noted an ability of Moscow and Ankara to show pragmatism in times of good relations and push disputes to one side, concentrating on strategic cooperation that includes a goal to reach annual bilateral trade of $100 billion.

Andrew Neff, principal analyst for the CIS and eastern Europe at IHS Energy, said that while it may take more time for relations to recover, Turkey and Russia have decided to focus on areas where they can cooperate.

Pipe dream

The TurkStream pipeline is planned to pump 31.5 billion cubic metres per year of Russian gas to Europe, helping Moscow limit the gas transit through Ukraine.

But analysts have long been sceptical of its economic rationale and its actual construction has yet to start.

"TurkStream is still more pipe dream than pipeline, and the resumption of political and commercial ties only gets us back to the starting line, not necessarily on the track to the finish line," said Neff.

The construction of the southern Akkuyu plant - Turkey's first nuclear power station - should start sooner.

Erdogan sees it as a pillar of the hydrocarbon-poor country's drive for greater energy self-sufficiency.

After an initial ice-breaking meeting on 9 August in St. Petersburg, Putin and Erdogan met again on the sidelines of the G20 in China in September.

The Russian leader admitted then that there was "still a lot to do" to restore full bilateral cooperation.

The World Energy Congress is to get underway with a keynote speech by Saudi Arabia's Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih.

Putin is expected to address the gathering later in the day, as well as holding separate bilateral talks with Erdogan.