Turkey's natural gas war

By Wang Jin
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, April 24, 2016
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Turkey is trying to handle the potential natural gas crisis caused by the volatile situation in the Middle East and its tense ties with Russia.

Turkey has taken diversified measures to handle the potential natural gas crisis caused by the volatile situation in the Middle East and its tense ties with Russia.

So far, Russia has been the largest gas supplier of Turkey, delivering gas to the latter via Ukraine or the Black Sea. However, because of the tensions between Russia and Ukraine, the Ukraine route may be closed by 2019. Turkey thus has to develop a Plan B.

Additionally, the relations between Turkey and Russia have also been less than friendly. In the recent years, the two sides have differed widely on a series of major regional issues, such as the Ukraine crisis and the Syria crisis. At the end of last year, the bilateral ties worsened further as Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet. Given this background, Turkey is eager to reduce its reliance on Russian gas to avoid being "abducted" by the latter in international affairs.

However, it's unlikely to find a substitute for natural gas in the foreseeable future. Therefore, Turkey has to diversify its gas sources to control the risks. Specifically, it has taken three measures.

First, it has been working hard to accelerate the building of the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP), which can deliver gas from Azerbaijan through Georgia and Turkey to Europe. Unfortunately, however, Azerbaijan and Georgia are situated on the border of Europe and Asia, thus easy to fall victim to geopolitical competition. That was why Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davuto?lu flew to Azerbaijan immediately after the Russian fighter jet incident. He was anxious to make sure that the conflict wouldn't impede the pipeline's progress.

Also, Turkey is actively restoring ties with Israel, so as to gain access to the natural gas resources in the Eastern Mediterranean. For Turkey, there is no way to avoid Israel if it wants to use the gas there. For one thing, Israel has been cooperating with Greece and Cyprus for years to exploit gas in that area; what's more, it's unlikely for Turkey to cooperate with the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, because the latter, as a self-declared state, could not make an effective use of foreign funds, and even if it could, Turkey doesn't have the money and technology to do it.

Sadly, Turkey's efforts to cooperate with Israel are not going well. The two sides couldn't reach a consensus on the Gaza Flotilla incident, and inside Israel, there have been dissenting voices regarding the Eastern Mediterranean project.

Turkey's third option is enhancing infrastructure to improve the use of imported gas. Except for Russia, it has many other gas suppliers, such as Algeria and Nigeria. It has also struck a bigger gas deal with Iran. Also, it has the intention of buying liquefied natural gas from the United States. All these require it to improve infrastructure, hence the new gas facilities at the ports of Eregli and Aliaga.

Turkey has achieved initial success in international gas cooperation. Its gas sources have been diversified. In the future, it's very likely to be a critical juncture at the Asia-Europe gas route.

The author is a doctorate student of international relations with the School of Political Sciences at the University of Haifa.

The article was translated by Chen Xia from an unabridged version published in Chinese.

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of China.org.cn.

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