Russia ‘not demanding’ Turkey quit EU for Shanghai pact

Russia does not expect Turkey to halt or estrange ties with EU while the country carries out accession talks with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Russian ambassador said on Wednesday.

In an interview with Anadolu Agency, Andrey Karlov, Russia’s ambassador to Ankara, said: “It is all is up to Ankara. During the [SCO] membership process, we are not at all demanding from Turkey to refrain or halt its relations with the EU.”

Karlov assured Turkey of Russia’s cooperation. “Russia is ready to cooperate with Turkey in every sense, at the bilateral or international level,” he said.

The remarks come after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier said Turkey was beginning to think about other blocs instead of the EU, especially the SCO.

About the upcoming meeting between Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in the Mediterranean province of Antalya on Thursday, he said the meeting would carry a symbolic meaning in the new phase of bilateral relations between the two countries.

“The latest issues in Ukraine and Syria will top the agenda. This meeting will play a key role in cooperation,” Karlov added.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim is also due to visit Russia between Dec. 5 and Dec. 6.

Turkey-Russia energy projects

Karlov said Russia wants to see Turkey as a natural gas transit hub, and to this end, it supports the TurkStream natural gas project.

The signing of the intergovernmental agreement for the TurkStream Natural Gas Pipeline Project in Istanbul, between Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Oct. 10, has ensured that construction works can start for the project, Karlov explained.

The TurkStream project, announced by Putin during a December 2014 visit to Turkey, will carry gas from Russia under the Black Sea to Turkish Thrace. One line, with 15.75 billion cubic meters of capacity, is expected to supply the Turkish market, while a second line intends to carry gas to Europe.

“We expect the construction of the pipeline to start next year and the first gas to arrive in 2019. In the first stage, two lines will be constructed. The first line will have the capacity to meet Turkey’s natural gas needs and the other line can transfer gas to third countries in southern Europe in accordance with the agreement, or it can be used to meet Turkey’s growing domestic demand,” he said.

He also underlined that Russia never relented from its cooperation with Turkey on the construction of the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant.

Relations between Russia and Turkey soured last November after the downing of Russian jet, which had violated Turkish airspace along the Syrian border. Relations began to thaw on June 29 following a letter and subsequent telephone calls between the countries’ leaders.

Noting that the necessary legislation to speed up the construction of the plant has been passed by the Turkish parliament, Karlov also said the education of 250 Turkish students in Russia in preparation for employment at the new plant is ongoing.

“The issue of workers who will be employed in the plant is also very important. Nearly 250 Turkish students are being educated in different Russian universities in the field of nuclear energy engineering,” he said.

The agreement on the Akkuyu nuclear plant was signed in 2010. The plant plans to have 4,800 megawatts of capacity in four units and is anticipated to be operational by 2023.