Gazprom is accelerating the construction of the Turkish Stream gas pipeline, at a time when the United States’ willingness to use sanctions on the project is in question writes Ukrainian Ambassador to Turkey Sergey Korsunsky article for the Zerkalo Nedeli newspaper.
The author notes that at the start of September, Swiss Allseas Group S.A., which was contracted to lay the most complicated sea stretch of the gas pipeline, was joined by the British company Petrofac, which has signed a contract to construct the ground infrastructure in Turkish territory – the pipelines and the gas receiving terminal.
Petrofac’s CEO, Syrian-born Ayman Asfari, is under administrative sanctions, which were placed on him in connection with an investigation by the Italian National Commission for Companies and the Stock Exchange on suspicions of insider trading. Furthermore, in May this year, Petrofac and its head were investigated by the British Special Investigation Branch on charges of corruption, bribery and money laundering in connection with the activities of the Monaco-based company Unaoil, which has also been accused of corruption.
“In the opinion of analysts from the banks Bardays and Morgan Stanley, the ongoing investigation is a very serious negative signal for Petrofac’s investors and partners. It is predicted that the company could lose up to half of its market value in the next few years… But all of these facts did not intimidate Gazprom, which said that roughly 220 of the 900 kilometers of the underwater portion of the pipe have already been laid, and so construction should begin immediately on the ground infrastructure close to the Kıyıköy settlement, where Turkish Stream joins the land. In Gazprom’s opinion, Petrofac is an excellent partner for this project,” Korsunsky observes.
At the same time, Gazprom’s supervisory board soon intends to discuss the creation of a joint enterprise, TurkAkim Gaz Tasima A.S., with the Turkish company Botas, in order to implement the ground portion of the second gas pipeline in Turkish territory.
Gazprom is no longer concerned by the position of European consumers.
“Earlier, Gazprom’s leadership and the Russian Ministry of Energy said that the second line will not be constructed until the European Commission announces the EU’s interest in receiving Russian gas through Greece and Italy. Brussels, in turn, has repeatedly spoken in favor of the Azerbaijani-Turkish project ‘Southern Transport Corridor’, according to which Caspian gas should reach the European market first. Turkish Stream was not included in the EU’s prioritized projects, but, as follows from Moscow’s latest statements, Russia and Turkey have decided to construct a second export line up to the border with Greece.”
The author notes that in the situation with Turkish Stream, it is still unclear whether US sanctions will be introduced: the impression is developing that Washington is not too concerned by this project, its attention being primarily directed towards Nord Stream 2, which is objectively more dangerous for Ukraine.
The diplomat imagines that Gazprom is ready to go through with the Turkish Stream project.
“It can only be hoped that the EU will remain adamant in its position on the Southern Transport Corridor, and that the damage to the Ukrainian gas transportation system will be limited to the loss of transit through the Balkan route,” he noted.
In Korsunsky’s opinion, alternative and more positive scenarios will only be possible if the US introduces sanctions, but Washington’s willingness to use them remains uncertain, due to the extremely tense relations with Turkey.