Washington briefing: Russia, Turkey reach fresh energy, trade agreements

by Emil Sanamyan

Published: Friday August 21, 2009

Putin and Erdogan meeting in Ankara on August 6.

Washington - Turkey agreed to transit Russian gas to third countries and will continue to consider the Russian bid to build Turkey's first nuclear power plant, the two nations' leaders agreed earlier this month. Russia in turn agreed to ease customs regulations for Turkish imports.

The agreements were announced during Russian premier Vladimir Putin's visit with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on August 6, the New York Times and regional media outlets reported soon after.

The gas deal complements Turkey's efforts to become the hub for Europe's gas imports. Last month, Turkey agreed to transit natural gas from Russia's potential competitors in Central Asia – the so-called Nabucco project supported by the European Union and the United States, which are seeking to lessen Russia's dominance in the European gas market.

Turkey already imports most of its natural gas from Russia, through what is known as the Blue Stream pipeline that crosses the Black Sea and was built by Italy's Eni corporation. The Russian-Turkish summit was joined by Italy's prime minister Silvia Berlusconi, reflecting the Italian business interests.

But Russian-Turkish cooperation appeared to be driven in equal measure by economic and political interests. RFE/RL cited a commentator for Hurriyet Daily News noting Mr. Putin's popularity in Turkey because he was seen as seeking to challenge America's global dominance.

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