ECONOMY

Turkey-Iran deal nearer

ANKARA – Turkey, bolstered by a deal with Russian gas monopoly Gazprom on sales to Middle Eastern countries, could soon also seal a gas accord with Iran, officials said yesterday. Gazprom and Turkey’s state gas pipeline firm Botas agreed on Wednesday on selling surplus Russian gas to Israel, Syria and possibly others via the Blue Stream pipeline and to the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan. The energy officials said Tehran, worried that the Gazprom deal would boost Russia’s share in the Turkish market, agreed to new talks next week in Ankara on settling a row over the price of Iranian gas imports. Ankara resorted to international arbitration last month in the dispute after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan failed to persuade Tehran to cut prices. «Turkey and Russia have reached an important point especially for selling gas to the Middle East and Europe. This is putting pressure on Iran because it has the same goal,» said an energy official. The Turkish government is working on two pipeline projects with western neighbors Greece and Bulgaria to export gas from Caspian littoral countries to Europe. «The level (of cooperation) we have attained with Russia brings Turkey closer to a deal with Iran,» a second energy official said. Turkey began purchases of Iranian gas totaling 4 billion cubic meters in 2001 under a 25-year deal. Turkish authorities say the low quality of the gas has caused interruptions, but some analysts believe Turkey’s overestimation of domestic demand is to blame. Turkey is expected to buy 6 billion cubic meters of gas from Iran this year and to raise this to 10 billion in 2007, data from the state pipeline company Botas show. It is estimated that Turkey will buy 18 billion cubic meters of gas from Russia, its main supplier, this year. Local gas consumption projections for this year total 23.2 billion cubic meters.