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Erdogan, Putin inaugurate new gas pipeline

By AFP - Jan 08,2020 - Last updated at Jan 08,2020

ISTANBUL — President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin inaugurated a new gas pipeline linking their countries at a ceremony in Istanbul on Wednesday.

Erdogan described the Turkstream pipelines — which will deliver Russian gas to Turkey and Europe via the Black Sea — as a "project of historic importance" for relations between their countries. 

Putin arrived late on Tuesday after paying a surprise visit to Syria — his first to Damascus since the war began — at a moment of acute uncertainty in the Middle East following the assassination of top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani by the United States. 

TurkStream and the Nord Stream pipelines under the Baltic allow Russia to increase gas supplies to Europe without having to rely on Ukraine.

But Moscow's increasing domination of European energy markets has worried the United States, which last month sanctioned firms working on TurkStream and the almost-completed Nord Stream 2.

The ceremony in Istanbul reflected an improvement in ties between Russia and Turkey, who appeared on the verge of war less than five years ago after Turkey shot down a Russian jet.

They have established a regular dialogue over the Syrian conflict, despite being on opposing sides, but now find their relations tested again in Libya. 

Last week, Turkey sent its first troops to help defend the UN-backed Tripoli government, which is under siege from strongman
Khalifa Haftar. 

The TurkStream project, which was temporarily halted during a frosty patch in Russia-Turkey relations, includes two parallel pipelines of more than 900 kilometres.

The pipeline links Anapa in Russia to Kiyikoy in northwestern Turkey and has already begun deliveries to Bulgaria. It is being extended towards Serbia, Hungary and Austria.

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