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Ex-BOTAŞ CEO: Keep Calm and Supply Turkey With Russian Gas

Turkey is the second largest Russian gas consumer after Germany

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Gazprom will probably not cut gas supplies to Turkey despite the latter shooting down a Russian Sukhoi Su-24 warplane on November 24, an ex CEO for Turkey’s BOTAŞ Petroleum Pipeline Corporation told New Europe on November 25.

“No, I don’t expect any serious cut of gas supplies from the Russians because Turkey is the second largest Russian gas consumer after Germany. We pay and we receive gas. Russia sends gas and gets money in time. These are long-term contracts which both parties have to follow,” said Gokhan Yardim, who headed Turkey’s state pipeline operator when Blue Stream was constructed from Russia to Turkey.

Yardim noted that “trade and politics are two different things” and “politicians have to keep calm” and carefully choose their words in these critical moments.

Turkey relies on Gazprom for about half its natural gas supplies, paying the Russian gas monopoly as much as $10 billion last year.

If there is a force majeure due to the undeclared war, then the Russian Industry and Trade Chamber has to send a force majeure document to Turkey indicating the reason of the force majeure and duration, then they can cut gas supplies, Yardim said. “The Russians will lose all of their prestige and credibility in the natural gas industry, not only in Turkey all over the world, including the EU,” he said.

However, rhetoric has escalated from Ankara and Moscow. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on November 25 that Russia has “serious doubts” that Turkey’s downing of its warplane on November 24 was “an unpremeditated act”. “It looks very much like a planned provocation,” Lavrov said.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev alleged that some Turkish officials have “direct financial interest” in the oil trade with the terrorist group Daesh.

For his part, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned what he said was the violation of Turkish airspace by Russian warplanes, calling the incident an infringement of his country’s sovereignty.

Russia also relies on Turkey to reduce gas transit via Ukraine. Gazprom plans to build Turkish Stream, a gas pipe under the Black Sea. However, Gazprom said in October it would cut the capacity of the planned link to Turkey and on to Europe by 50%.

Gazprom had been seeking to build the $22 billon South Stream project to avoid sending gas across Ukraine, given its conflict with its neighbor, but scrapped the project, citing objections from the European Union, and opted for a pipeline via Turkey.

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine escalated on November 25 as Ukraine said it will stop buying Russian natural gas. Gazprom said on November 25 that it stopped sending gas to Ukraine in the morning and will supply no more because Ukraine has not paid in advance for more deliveries. The stoppage comes less than two months after the two countries signed a EU-brokered deal ensuring supplies through March.

Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller on November 25 warned that Ukraine’s “refusal to buy Russian gas threatens a safe gas transit to Europe through Ukraine and gas supplies to Ukraine consumers in the coming winter”.

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Co-founder / Director of Energy & Climate Policy and Security at NE Global Media

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