| ANKARA, March 11
ANKARA, March 11 Turkish concern about too much
dependence on Russian energy and an upcoming election mean
Russia's plans for a new gas pipeline to southeastern Europe are
unlikely to advance as quickly as Moscow might like, Turkish
energy officials said on Wednesday.
Facing objections from the European Union, Russia in
December abandoned its $40 billion South Stream project which
would have passed under the Black Sea to Bulgaria and carry up
to 63 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas annually to Europe.
Instead, Russian gas exporter Gazprom said in
January it planned to build an undersea gas pipeline with the
same capacity to an as-yet unbuilt hub on the Turkish-Greek
border by the end of 2016.
But officials in Ankara said that timeframe for the project,
known informally as Turkish Stream, was unrealistic.
"The issue is not Turkish Stream alone, this is a whole
package for Turkey's energy needs. We need to be a little bit
patient," Energy Minister Taner Yildiz told Reuters.
Turkey is already heavily dependent on Russia for natural
gas. Last year it bought 27.33 bcm of gas through the Blue
Stream and West-East pipelines from Russia, equivalent to more
than half of its gas imports.
Russian state nuclear company Rosatom is also building
Turkey's first nuclear power plant.
"Russia is very keen but it's very likely that (Turkish
Stream) will be delayed to at least 2017," one industry
executive said, highlighting lengthy environmental approvals,
especially ahead of a June general election.
A second government official said negotiations over the
import price for Russian gas were also a factor. Turkey secured
a 10.25 percent discount in late February but wants more.
By 2017, Turkey's gas demand is expected to outstrip current
contracted import volumes. Supplies from northern Iraq, one
alternative, will not come on line before 2018, leaving Ankara
little choice but to buy more from Russia.
There are also political concerns.
One Western diplomat in Ankara said the wrangling over
Turkish Stream was more about a tussle between Brussels and
Moscow over maintaining influence over Turkey.
"People are realising more and more that Russia is a lost
cause and that we need to find more allies to the east and
south. Turkey is number one," the diplomat said. "Russia is
drawing Turkey into its orbit, and if it's not stopped now, then
it may be too late."
(Additional reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Jonny Hogg in
Ankara; writing by Humeyra Pamuk; editing by Nick Tattersall and