This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have marked the completion of the offshore phase of a gas pipeline underneath the Black Sea, the latest sign of growing cooperation between Moscow and Ankara.
Speaking at November 19 ceremony in Istanbul, Erdogan said the TurkStream pipeline will carry 31.5 billion cubic meters of gas from Russia to Turkey each year when operational, and will send at least half of the amount to European markets.
Work will now focus onshore and is on track to be completed by the end of 2019, he also said.
Putin said the pipeline will help ensure European energy security, insisting that the project is “not directed against the interests of anyone.”
The Russian president also said that Turkey will become a “major European hub” for the energy sector.
The new pipeline is part of Moscow’s efforts to bypass Ukraine as a gas transit route to Europe, which imports about a third of its gas needs from Russian energy giant Gazprom. Turkey is almost completely reliant on imports to meet its energy needs.
Ties between Moscow and Ankara plunged to their lowest level in years in November 2015, when Turkish forces shot down a Russian warplane over Syria.
But after a reconciliation deal in 2016, relations have quickly recovered, with Putin and Erdogan cooperating closely over Syria, Turkey buying Russian-made air-defense systems, and Russia building Turkey’s first nuclear power plant.
The Istanbul ceremony marked the completion of the building of two undersea lines stretching 930 kilometers across the Black Sea from Anapa in Russia to Kiyikoy in Turkey.
Russia’s state energy giant Gazprom has said that it sees Serbia and EU member-states Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, and Hungary as potential markets for Russia’s natural gas supplied via TurkStream.