Turkey imports more gas from Azeris than Russians, signals policy shift

Turkey imports more gas from Azeris than Russians, signals policy shift
Pipe-laying vessel Akademik Cherskiy owned by Gazprom, which Russia may use to complete construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, is seen in a bay near the Baltic Sea port of Baltiysk, Kaliningrad region, Russia May 3, 2020. (REUTERS)
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Updated 02 June 2020

Turkey imports more gas from Azeris than Russians, signals policy shift

Turkey imports more gas from Azeris than Russians, signals policy shift
  • In March, Turkey received 924,28 million cubic meters of Azeri gas, comprising 23.45 percent of the total volume of gas supplies to Turkey and pushing Iran and Russia to second and third place respectively as gas providers

ANKARA: Ankara has been importing more Azeri gas in the past couple of months in a move to reduce its dependence on Russian and Iranian gas.
Experts say that recent political conflict between Ankara and Kremlin, first in Syria and then in Libya, might have played a political role in a change that also suggests political calculations.
In the first quarter of this year, Azerbaijan exported 2.7 billion cubic meters of gas to Turkey from the Shah Deniz field — 20 percent more than the same period last year, according to official data from the Energy Market Regulatory Authority of Turkey.
Although Ankara and the Kremlin this January launched the $7.8 billion, 930 km TurkStream pipeline to bypass the Ukraine, Azerbaijan, as a major gas supply competitor, is gradually establishing a foothold in the Turkish market and for the first time overtaking Russia as the largest gas supplier.
In March, Turkey received 924,28 million cubic meters of Azeri gas, comprising 23.45 percent of the total volume of gas supplies to Turkey and pushing Iran and Russia to second and third place respectively as gas providers.
Gazprom’s share in Turkish gas imports fell below 10 percent from 33 percent compared to March 2019, with its exports declining by 72 percent; liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports from the US tripled in the same period at nearly 1 million tons. John Roberts, an energy security specialist and a member of the UN Economic Commission for Europe Group of Experts on Gas, said that both Russian gas giant Gazprom and Azerbaijan’s state energy company SOCAR — acting as salesman for the Shah Deniz consortium — have delivery contracts that they both have to honor.
“As these contracts contain pricing formulas, the price of the gas cannot be changed unless the prices are renegotiated,” he said.
According to Roberts, at a time of generally low international gas prices, this means in practice that Turkish buyers have to convince Gazprom and SOCAR to lower their rates.

Gazprom customers in Turkey remain very unhappy at the cost of Russian deliveries. So Turkish customers, including Turkish state energy company BOTAS, seem to be opting to purchase Azeri gas whenever possible.

John Roberts, Energy security specialist

“It appears that SOCAR may be more flexible than Gazprom in this regard. Meanwhile, Gazprom customers in Turkey remain very unhappy at the cost of Russian deliveries. So Turkish customers, including Turkish state energy company BOTAS, seem to be opting to purchase Azeri gas whenever possible,” he said.
Azerbaijan’s SOCAR also plans to list its Turkish subsidiary on the London, Hong Kong and Istanbul stock exchanges next year.
However, although the dispute with Gazprom is primarily commercial and has been running for several years, Roberts thinks that an inclination toward Azeri gas has a political dimension as well.
“If a supplier is not flexible about prices when the price of gas is generally so low, it leaves the consumer to worry whether it is sensible to rely so much on such a dominant supplier,” he said.
“Since BOTAS, which is responsible for handling the import of most of Turkey’s gas, is a state company, this means that political calculations concerning Russia’s share of the Turkish market are bound to play a role, particularly as Turkey negotiates replacement contracts for existing supplies of Russian and Azeri gas.”
Shaky political relations between Turkey and Russia due to their different political priorities also play a role in changing energy preferences, especially at a time when both Russian and Azeri gas are waiting for a renewal of contracts.
“Other political factors, notably Turkey’s sometimes strained relations with Russia due to the conflicts in Syria and Libya, as well as its traditional friendship with Azerbaijan, will play a role in determining the shape of future contracts,” Roberts said.  
“From a Turkish perspective, the real issue is getting Russia and Azerbaijan — and also Iran and various suppliers of LNG — into a competitive situation so that they compete on price for a very substantial market,” he said.
Meanwhile, the National Iranian Gas Company officially notified Turkey’s Botas on Monday about a lack of cooperation on the resumption of natural gas imports from Iran. The flow of Iranian gas to Turkey was disrupted two months ago due to a pipeline explosion.


UN envoy calls for greater sense of urgency in Syrian peace efforts

UN envoy calls for greater sense of urgency in Syrian peace efforts
Updated 57 min 43 sec ago

UN envoy calls for greater sense of urgency in Syrian peace efforts

UN envoy calls for greater sense of urgency in Syrian peace efforts
  • Geir Pederson wants enhanced international diplomacy, and tighter focus on progress in drafting new constitution
  • The fifth session of the Small Body of the Syrian Constitutional Committee begins in Geneva on Monday

NEW YORK: Geir Pedersen, the UN’s special envoy for Syria, on Friday called for “more serious and cooperative” international diplomacy as part of political efforts to improve the lives of the Syrian people and develop a vision for the future of their country.

Speaking ahead of the fifth session of the Small Body of the Syrian Constitutional Committee, which begins on Monday in Geneva, he also urged committee members to focus their efforts and work more effectively to speed up progress on constitutional reform.

Pedersen expressed hope that much-needed international engagement with the peace process is now possible.

“After all, despite the differences, key states are continuing to reaffirm their commitment to Resolution 2254,” he added, referring to the UN Security Council resolution, adopted in 2015, that calls for a ceasefire and political settlement in Syria.

Pedersen, who briefed the Security Council this week on the latest developments, highlighted the fact that five foreign armies are active in Syria and “violations of Syrian sovereignty and territorial integrity (have been) going on for years.”

Although the ceasefire agreement reached by Russia and Turkey in the northwest of the country resulted in a de-escalation of hostilities, Pedersen warned that this relative calm remains fragile.

UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File) 

“All of these issues cannot be sorted out by the Syrians alone,” he said. (They) need an international cooperation (and) a real exchange of views (among all parties).

“If that political will is lacking it would be very, very difficult to move this process forward ... if you leave this to the UN alone, we will not be able to succeed.”

Top on the agenda on Monday will be discussion of the basic principles of the Syrian constitution. Pedersen said he has been meeting with the two co-chairs of the committee on a regular basis, and has also had intensive discussions with the “Middle Third” civil-society group, which includes society activists and experts and other independents from inside and outside of Syria.

His experiences during the past year, he said, lead him to believe there is potential for finding common ground. No single actor or group of actors can impose its will on Syria or settle the conflict alone — they must work together, he added.

The time has now come for the co-chairs of the Constitutional Committee to organize and focus its efforts by establishing “more effective and operational working methods,” Pedersen said, so that they can begin to move forward from preparing constitutional reforms to actually drafting them, and agreeing on clear agendas and discussion topics for future meetings.

“There needs to be more urgency (in) delivering progress in this process,” he added.

As he saluted the work of civil society groups and “all the Syrians who do what they can to improve the situation on the ground and support a political process,” Pedersen singled out women in particular for praise. He has been particularly proactive in seeking input from the Women’s Advisory Board.

“It is a priority for all of us to make sure that we have full participation of Syrian women in the political process,” he said. “(Promoting) their core constitutional rights is central for me, as the facilitator of the work of the Constitutional Committee.”

Asked about plans for large-scale prisoner swaps, Pedersen said that although this is not on the agenda for the talks in Geneva this week, it is always part of his own agenda. The disappointment over the lack of progress on the issue so far means “that we should work even harder” on it, he added.

“This is a file that really has an impact on nearly every Syrian family, and it needs to be addressed,” he said. “(I) have appealed (for) more information on the missing. (We) need to see the early release of women, children, the elderly and the sick, and I think (nothing) should stop that from happening.”

The members of the Small Body of the Syrian Constitutional Committee are due to arrive in Geneva on Saturday, and Pedersen will consult with the co-chairs over the weekend before the main talks begin on Monday.

Asked whether he expects this latest round of negotiations to be a success for the UN, Pedersen said: “I really do not think this is the question; the question (is) whether it is a success for the Syrian people and (their) aspirations.

“My hope has been that the Constitutional Committee, if it is handled in the correct manner, could start to build trust and (be) a door-opener for a broader political process.

“But the (committee) cannot work in isolation ... we need political will from the different parties to be able to move forward.”

He added: “The (committee) is just one aspect, and it is not the one aspect that will solve the Syrian crisis. If we are to see changes in the situation on the ground, there are other factors that need to be discussed.”