Putin, Erdogan Voice Support for Gas Pipeline Project

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shake hands following the group photo at the World Energy Congress. AP photo

ISTANBUL (AP) — The leaders of Russia and Turkey on Monday voiced support for the construction of a gas pipeline, a plan that was suspended amid tensions between the two countries.

In separate addresses to the World Energy Congress, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan said their countries wanted to press ahead with the Turkish Stream project. The pipeline would carry Russian natural gas to Turkey and on to European Union countries.

“We are providing energy for the EU for the past 50 years,” Putin said in his speech. “We are now working on a second project. We are discussing the Turkish Stream with Erdogan and our other partners and we want to bring this about.”

Erdogan said: “We look positively at the Turkish Stream project. Our efforts are continuing.”

Turkey and Russia are working to normalize ties that were strained last year by Turkey’s downing of a Russian warplane near the border with Syria. Russia had responded by deploying long-range air defense missiles at its air base in Syria, and imposing an array of economic sanctions on Turkey.

Relations warmed after Erdogan apologized in June.

Differences remain on Syria. While Moscow has backed Syrian President Bashar Assad throughout the nation’s civil war and further bolstered that support by launching an air campaign last September, Turkey has pushed for Assad’s removal and helped his foes.

In his speech, Putin voiced support to Erdogan over the country’s July 15 failed coup, saying he was happy that the country had “retained control” after the failed attempt.

“We are very glad that Turkey is recovering and wish it success,” Putin said.

The two leaders are also expected to meet on the sidelines of the World Energy Congress to discuss economic ties and Syria.

Putin had first suggested the Turkish Stream project to carry gas beneath the Black Sea into Turkey in 2014, when a pipeline project to Bulgaria fell through amid EU countries’ opposition. Russia is also building Turkey’s first nuclear power station.

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