Vladimir Putin has sealed a deal with the Turkish president to construct a gas pipeline between the two countries on the same day Russia announced it will establish a naval base in Syria.
Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan voiced support for the pipeline, in a plan that was suspended amid tensions between the two countries.
However, in separate addresses to the World Energy Congress, Putin and Turkish Erdogan said their countries wanted to press ahead with the Turkish Stream project.
Russian president Vladimir Putin sits next to his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the World Energy Congress, where they announced a gas deal between the two countries
The pipeline would carry Russian natural gas to Turkey and on to European Union countries.
Putin told the meeting: ‘We are providing energy for the EU for the past 50 years. We are now working on a second project.
‘We are discussing the Turkish Stream with Erdogan and our other partners and we want to bring this about.’
While Erdogan said: ‘We look positively at the Turkish Stream project. Our efforts are continuing.’
Turkey and Russia are working to normalise ties that were strained last year by Turkey’s downing of a Russian warplane near the border with Syria.
Russia had responded by deploying long-range air defense missiles at its air base in Syria, and imposing an array of economic sanctions on Turkey. But relations warmed after Erdogan apologized in June.
Turkey and Russia are working to normalise ties that were strained last year by Turkey’s downing of a Russian warplane near the border with Syria
The construction of the pipelinem which would carry Russian natural gas to Turkey and on to European Union countries, was announced by the two leaders today
However, differences remain on Syria as Moscow has backed Syrian President Bashar Assad throughout the nation’s civil war and further bolstered that support by launching an air campaign last September.
Meanwhile, Turkey has pushed for Assad’s removal and the two countries will discuss the conflict in the Middle East at the congress.
News of the new pipeline comes after the Kremlin revealed it wants to turn its naval unit in the Syrian port city of Tartus into a permanent facility.
‘In Syria we will have a permanent naval base in Tartus,’ Russian news agencies quoted deputy defence minister Nikolai Pankov as saying.
It comes as analysts claimed Russia has built up its forces in Syria since a ceasefire collapsed in late September, sending in troops, planes and advanced missile systems.
Reuters says data points to a doubling of supply runs by air and sea compared to the nearly two-week period preceding the truce.
Moscow sent its air force to support Syrian president Bashar al-Assad a year ago fearing the Syrian Army was on the point of succumbing to rebel offensives. Workers fix a missile to a Russian jet at Hmeimim airbase in Syria last year
It appears to be Russia’s biggest military deployment to Syria since President Vladimir Putin said in March he would pull out some of his country’s forces.
The increased manpower probably includes specialists to put into operation a newly delivered S-300 surface-to-air missile system, military analysts said.
The S-300 system will improve Russia’s ability to control air space in Syria, where Moscow’s forces support the government of President Bashar al-Assad, and could be aimed at deterring tougher U.S. action, they said.
‘The S-300 basically gives Russia the ability to declare a no-fly zone over Syria,’ said Justin Bronk, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London.
Vladimir Putin’s (right) forces support the government of President Bashar al-Assad (left)
‘It also makes any US attempt to do so impossible. Russia can just say: “We’re going to continue to fly and anything that tries to threaten our aircraft will be seen as hostile and destroyed”.’
Russia’s Defence Ministry did not respond to written questions. A senior air force official, speaking on condition of anonymity, dismissed talk of an increase in supply shipments.
But data collated by Turkish bloggers for their online Bosphorus Naval News project, and reviewed by Reuters, shows reinforcements sent via Russia’s ‘Syrian Express’ shipping route from the Black Sea increased throughout September and have peaked in the last week.
The data shows 10 Russian navy ships have gone through the Bosphorus en route to Syria since late September, compared with five in the 13-day period before the truce – from August 27 to September 7.
That number includes The Mirazh, a small missile ship which a Reuters correspondent saw heading through the Bosphorus towards the Mediterranean on Friday.
Two other Russian missile ships were deployed to the Mediterranean on Wednesday.
Some of the ships that have been sent to Syria were so heavily laden the load line was barely visible above the water, and have docked at Russia’s Tartus naval base in the Western Syrian province of Latakia. Reuters has not been able to establish what cargo they were carrying.
Troops and equipment are also returning to Syria by air, according to tracking data on website FlightRadar24.com.
Russian military cargo planes flew to Russia’s Hmeymim airbase in Syria six times in the first six days of October – compared to 12 a month in September and August, a Reuters analysis of the data shows.
Analysts have claimed Russia has built up its forces in Syria since a ceasefire collapsed in late September, sending in troops, planes and advanced missile systems
Russia sent its air force to support the Syrian Army a year ago when Moscow feared Assad was on the point of succumbing to rebel offensives. US-led forces also carry out air strikes in Syria, targeting ISIS positions.
Aerial bombardments in the past two weeks, mainly against rebel-held areas in the Syrian city of Aleppo, have been among the heaviest of the civil war, which has killed more then 300,000 people in under six years.
Since the collapse of the ceasefire in September, acrimony between the United States and Russia has grown and Washington has suspended talks with Moscow on implementing the truce.
U.S. officials told Reuters on September 28 that Washington had started considering tougher responses to the assault on Aleppo, including the possibility of air strikes on an Assad air base.
‘They (Russia) probably correctly surmise that eventually American policy will change,’ Bronk said, commenting on the analysis of the tracking data.
‘They are thinking: ‘We’re going to have to do something about this, so better to bring in more supplies now … before it potentially becomes too touchy’.’