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Russia may halt work on Turkey gas project: Gazprom sources

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reacts as he attends the COP 21 United Nations conference on climate change, on November 30, 2015 at Le Bourget, on the outskirts of the French capital Paris. (AFP Photo)

Sources at Russian gas giant Gazprom say work on the Turkish Stream gas pipeline project might be frozen in response to the recent downing of a Russian warplane by Turkey.

Two sources, whose names were not mentioned in the reports, made the announcement on Tuesday amid a current row between Ankara and Moscow, which prompted the latter to impose a series of sanctions on Turkey.

Officials in the company have so far made no decision, Gazprom sources said, adding that they are waiting to receive instructions from President Vladimir Putin over the issue.

“We’re expecting that the head of state, in all likelihood, could declare a freezing of Turkish Stream, or at least some kind of timeout should be announced,” said one source, while the second noted that they hope the Turkish Stream project would be “pushed back by a few years, rather than completely cancelled.”

Russian Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev had said before that the Kremlin’s sanctions on Turkey could affect Turkish Stream among other projects.

The pipeline aims to transit Russian gas, via Turkey, into southeastern Europe as part of Gazprom’s efforts to diversify the routes by which it supplies gas to Europe, which is its biggest export market.

The effect of the possible freeze would be symbolic rather than practical because the project has already seen delays and doubts over its feasibility.

Tensions have been running high between Turkey and Russia following the shooting down of a Russian Sukhoi Su-24M jet inside Syria on November 24. Turkey claimed that the aircraft had violated its airspace while Russia rejected the claim.

A protester throws a stone at the Turkish embassy in Moscow, Russia, November 25, 2015. (AFP photo)

President Putin called the downing of the jet a “stab in the back by accomplices of terrorists,” and ordered economic sanctions on Turkey, which includes labor force restrictions and bans on some goods and services. The Russian Defense Ministry has also suspended military ties with Turkey.

Under the bans, the visa-free regime for Turkish nationals visiting Russia will be suspended starting next year. Moscow has also stopped all sales of tour packages and charter flights to Turkey.

Russia’s energy exports to Turkey make up the core of the two countries’ economic relationship.

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