On Nov. 29, John McCarrick, the US Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Department of State’s Bureau of Energy Resources, stated that the US opposed to multiple Turkish Stream gas pipeline projects planned by Russia to deliver gas to Turkey.
To know more about the reasons behind the US concerns over energy cooperation between Turkey, Russia and Iran, we reached out to Senior Energy Security Analyst, Omid Shokri Kalehsar in Washington DC.
Following is the full text of his interview:
What are the real reasons behind the US objection to Turkey’s energy cooperation with Russia?
At present Turkey imported about %52 of natural gas from Russia, Turkey has growing domestic natural gas market and trying to find new resource for supplying gas. But during last year’s domestic consume decreased. By 2015 Turkey consumed 41.3 bcm and by 2016 imported 38.2. With new transit project (Turk Stream) Turkey will import annually 33 bcm in which 15.5 bcm will consume in Turkey domestic market and rest will transit to Greece. From energy security perspective relying on just one major supplier in natural gas or oil is not realistic. EU is not interested to import more natural gas from Russia especially from two new projects, Turk Stream and North Stream II.
US is against its allies to be dependent on Russian gas. EU is against North Stream II and at present Germany is more interested to construction North Stream II project. Russia is major natural gas supplier for Germany since post World War 2 (that period Soviet Unions was natural gas exporter to Germany). US official many times stated that supporting EU diversification policy and interested to help EU member to reduce its dependency on Russian gas. US officials many times supported Sothern Gas Corridor. Reducing Gazprom monopoly on EU natural gas market is important for both EU and US. Some EU members receives US LNG, during last month’s US also sent two LNG cargo to Turkey.
Will the Turkey’s recent increasing military and economic cooperation with Iran and Russia affect its relation with US and its NATO allies?
Turkey’s main tensions with US is about Washington’s refusal to extradite Fethullah Gulen, a US-based cleric whom the Turkish government blames for last year’s coup attempt, US support for PYD in Syria and sending military equipment’s to them ( which Turkey believes that they (PYD) is terrorist group and against Turkey national security) and recently Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab court. According Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, Turkey expects the U.S. to stop providing weapons to the PKK terrorist group’s Syrian affiliates the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed-wing People’s Protection Units (YPG), as Yildirim mentioned that “Our friend and ally [the U.S.] told us every time that it was not an option rather an obligation.
Russia is also supporting PYD in Syria. Russia support from PYD is also against Turkey regional interest as well. I think Turkey is trying to create balance in it relation with the West and Russia. With regard to Turkey-US strategic relations as both countries officials many times stated Current tensions must be solved according to their mutual interest. But it should be noted that Turkey-US relations may be affected by the result of Reza Zarrab court and what and how it may affect Turkey political and economic sphere.
By August 2016, about Turkey-Iran and Russia cooperation in the region specially in Syrian crisis as I have mentioned in my interview with Sputniknews , “If Turkey and Russia will be able to reach a common position on Syria at the initial stage and then, at the second stage, reach an agreement on close cooperation with Iran, the joint potential of these three countries in the expedient resolution of the Syrian crisis will increase,” . Cooperation between these countries will help the stability in the region. It should be noted that for total solving Syrian Crisis it is required to notice the US interests in the region and also other regional factors and great powers as well.
How effective is the cooperation of Turkey, Iran and Russia for the stability and prosperity of the region and for the energy security of Europe? How do you see the future of these cooperation?
According to the Strategic Plan of the Turkish Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources (2015-2019), diversification of energy resources is a top priority. In addition, Turkey is interested in using its geographic position in the region to become an energy transit country and regional hub for oil and gas from the Caspian Basin, Central Asia, and Iran, to European markets. At the end of 2015, and especially after the Ukrainian crisis, the EU decided to give more attention to the diversification of its energy resources. Diversification of energy is one of the main pillars of the Energy Union.
The EU prefers to supply natural gas from other countries and is keen to break GAZPROM’s monopoly on the EU energy market. However, EU energy demands are ever-increasing, and some countries already depend on Russia for almost all their energy needs. Turkey is interested in using its geographical position to play a key role in the energy market.
The geostrategic position of Turkey has incorporated Turkey’s geographical position into its calculations on foreign policy. However, Turkey needs more investment in infrastructure to increase the capacity of its refineries and natural gas storage facilities. It could be argued that energy would help Turkey to improve its relations with the EU and enhance its candidacy status.
Both sides could use the increased energy and diversification of energy resources to strengthen beneficial relations and gain mutual advantage from an energy agreement. That said, many of these plans are still in the early stages of development, and it will take years for them to come to fruition. However, in the meantime it remains to be seen what advances will be made in the short term, and how quickly Turkey’s ambitions as a transit country materialize.
The natural gas sector of Iran could be an option for Europe to reduce dependency on Russian gas, and this is an issue which Iranian oil officials have repeatedly mentioned. It should be noted that the country’s own high consumption of gas together with the amount of gas injected into storage tanks as well as existing exports (to Oman, Iraq and Pakistan) means that the volume of gas available for export elsewhere is severely reduced. Another barrier in this area is the lack of necessary infrastructure for gas exports to Europe. At present best route for natural gas from Caspian Sea and Central Asia and may be from Iraqi Kurdistan for European market is Turkey.
Iran in short term and midterm is not interested to export natural gas via pipeline to EU due to current natural gas price and also Iran needs financial resource for construction required pipeline to transit natural gas from South Pars to Turkey border. If Iran attracts required financial resource for construction, pipeline will be able to export more natural gas and will be one of the important factors in world market and play role in EU energy security.
Turkey is also one of the routs for Natural gas from Eastern Mediterranean region to EU. These projects would if realized would help to Turkey to be transit country and benefit from transit fee and cheap gas and would help Turkey to play role in EU energy security. Russia is playing well with oil and gas in world energy market. Russia is major natural gas supplier for EU. And using different pricing mechanism for every costumer.
Interview by Payman Yazdani