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Russian pipeline through Turkey on hold

Kremlin already scaled back Turkish ambitions after Bulgaria backed away from larger gas network.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Russian pipeline through Turkey on hold
Alexei Miller, the top executive at Russian gas giant Gazprom, says there's no concrete interest from Turkey on natural gas pipeline, forcing a suspension of bilateral talks. File photo by Anatoli Zhdanov/UPI | License Photo

MOSCOW, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- Talks between Moscow and Ankara on building a natural gas pipeline through Turkey to Europe are suspended, Russia's energy minister said.

Russian energy company Gazprom proposed the so-called Turkish Stream gas pipeline as an alternative to a broader South Stream pipeline network meant to feed European markets. Bulgaria's decision in 2014 to back away from South Stream led in part to a derailment of the project.

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Gazprom Chief Executive Officer Alexei Miller said Thursday there was little communication from Ankara on the proposal to build the pipeline.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak told news agency Itar-TASS the pursuit was now on hold.

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"The negotiations have been suspended," he said.

Miller in October said there were no political obstacles standing in the way of bilateral agreements on the gas pipeline.

Political ties between Russian and Turkey have soured in recent months. Russian military intervention in Syria frustrated the Turkish government and its allies in the NATO alliance and the recent downing of a Russian military jet in Turkish airspace was met with measured anger by the Kremlin.

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"We have always deemed betrayal the worst and most shameful thing to do, and that will never change," Russian President Vladimir Putin told the Federal Assembly. "I would like them to remember this -- those in Turkey who shot our pilots in the back, those hypocrites who tried to justify their actions and cover up for terrorists."

Turkey is the second-largest consumer of Russian natural gas. Gazprom last year surveyed the land route for Turkish Stream.

Ankara aims to exploit its geographical position to serve as an energy bridge for oil and natural gas supplies running from Eastern economies to Europe. A rival network from natural gas fields off the coast of Azerbaijan would run through Turkish networks to Europe.

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