President Vladimir Putin proposed to make Türkiye a natural gas distribution center for Europe this October, praising President Tayyip Erdoğan for being a “man of his word.”
Türkiye eagerly accepted this proposal, with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan confirming the deal during the Justice and Development Party’s group meeting in October.
President Erdoğan said: “Türkiye will be a hub for natural gas as well. In our last meeting, we agreed with Putin on this issue.” in his speech.
As most European countries imposed sanctions on and strictly limited oil and gas trade with Russia, it became significantly harder to conclude direct trade relations with European counterparts for Russia.
Türkiye, on the other hand, is still in good spirits with Moscow. As the ties are intact between the two partners, it is easier to distribute gas through Türkiye.
Additionally, Türkiye did not have problems with gas supply and supply-related price increases, unlike many European countries that did.
The hub is projected to be built in Thrace, the closest region of Türkiye to mainland Europe.
CAN TÜRKİYE BECOME A KEY PLAYER IN THE ENERGY SECTOR?
Türkiye has been actively trying to decrease its dependence on foreign sources. Recent agreements with Libya demonstrate that Ankara is moving toward increasing hydrocarbon extraction. Although currently, about seven percent of Türkiye’s domestic energy needs are satisfied by what it produces.
With the joint project between Moscow and Ankara, Türkiye might become an alternative hub for Europe.
Hürriyet Daily News quoted Konrad Adenauer Stiftung’s report, which claimed that Türkiye could pose an alternative to Russia with all the pipelines it fostered.
The report was quoted as saying that Türkiye could carry gas from the Caspian basin, the Middle East, the Eastern Mediterranean basin, and Central Asia to European countries, which are looking for new suppliers to replace Russia.
Türkiye’s geographical location makes it the most suitable place for gas transfer via pipelines as it is located at the intersection point of three continents.
The three intersecting continents being rich in oil and gas supplies increases Europe’s likelihood of shifting their attention from Russia to other suppliers, such as Azerbaijan or Iran, as they become more accessible to Europe through Türkiye.
Adding to this fact is security. President Putin might be skeptical of the Baltic Sea and the Nord Stream pipelines after the sabotage incidents. Black Sea and Turkish land are more secure locations to have the pipes.
Despite this optimistic way of thinking, some experts warn that what Türkiye thinks will happen is not what is on Putin’s mind.
WHAT IS THE OTHER POSSIBILITY?
Becoming a natural gas hub means that gigantic amounts of natural gas from different sources are traded in Türkiye.
To achieve this goal, Türkiye must receive significant amounts of gas from varying sources and needs to have a reliable infrastructure to carry and store gas.
One Turkish official who spoke to the Middle East Eye described Türkiye’s purpose to become a gas hub in which multiple gas sources are traded and sold by private entities.
The official added, “We do not want to be the transmitting country.” Türkiye does not desire to be a gas transporter but designates to become a market where customers can buy gas.
However, Putin’s ambitions for this project might exclusively be creating a new gas transfer route to Europe.
Matthew Bryza, a former United States ambassador to Azerbaijan, spoke to TRT World. He expressed his suspicion on the issue, saying that he was not sure if what Putin said would be done overlapped with what Türkiye wanted.
Bryza said: “He [Putin] is just simply talking about greater natural gas transit of Russian gas into and through Türkiye.”
Bryza also expressed his thoughts to TRT by conveying that Moscow might be looking to use the gas hub project to create a wedge between Ankara and NATO.
Mansur Ali Bilgiç - 09/12/2022