Turkey in the pipeline for South Stream

Russia and Turkey have signed an agreement that allows Russia to conduct exploration works in Turkish waters, signaling Ankara's agreement to build the South Stream pipeline, said Russia's energy minister.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin noted the importance of the South Stream pipeline, not only for Russian-Turkish relations but also for the international community.

"Today it is evident that the South Stream gas pipeline is on demand,” he said at a joint press conference with his counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “It is extremely important in the context of ensuring Europe's energy security and development of the whole range of relations between Russia and Turkey."

Russian Energy Minister Sergey Shmatko said the agreement means that Turkey de facto agrees to partake in the construction of the South Stream pipeline. The minister also said that Russia hopes to launch the construction of the project no later than 2010.

The minister added that at the moment there are no obstacles to construction of the South Stream.

“I do not see any reasons that could prompt postponing the project,” Shmatko said.

Vyacheslav Mishchenko, an energy expert from PACE Global Energy, also says the deal with Turkey finally makes the South Stream a reality.

”Before the parties signed this deal, it was only ideas and projects," he said. "Gazprom has its zeal to establish this new route by 2013 and it seems that Turkey fully supports Gazprom’s move. It is a benefit for Russia as well as Turkey, with this protocol becoming the largest energy hub in Europe.”

South Stream, a rival to the Nabucco project backed by the EU and the US, will run through the Black Sea to Bulgaria. It will bypass Ukraine, which has proven itself to be an unreliable transit partner for Russia.

The Nabucco project, on the other hand, proposes delivering gas from the Caspian Sea across Turkey to Europe, with the intention of diversifying Europe’s gas supply away from Russia.