The presidents of Turkey and Russia on Wednesday formally launched the TurkStream pipeline, which will carry Russian natural gas to southern Europe through Turkey, part of Moscow’s efforts to reduce shipments via Ukraine, Reuters reported.
The pipeline project, stretching 930 kilometers (580 miles) across the Black Sea, reinforces strong energy ties between Moscow and Ankara, which have also increased defense cooperation after Turkey bought advanced Russian missile defenses last year.
Russia and Turkey are also coordinating military deployments in northeast Syria, although they back opposing sides in the conflict in Syria’s northwestern Idlib region and also in the battle for control of Libya.
Presidents Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan inaugurated the project at a ceremony in İstanbul also attended by the leaders of Serbia and Bulgaria.
The pipeline was a sign of “interaction and cooperation for the benefit of our people and the people of all Europe, the whole world,” Putin said at the inauguration ceremony.
“We didn’t let our differences in opinion undermine our cooperation in areas of mutual interest,” Erdoğan said at the press conference.
Putin arrived in Turkey 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 general Qasem Soleimani by the United States, according to AFP.
Russia has already started European gas deliveries through the pipeline, gas operator Bulgartransgaz said on Sunday. The pipeline terminal is near the Turkish village of Kıyıköy, some 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the Bulgarian border.
Russia is also doubling the capacity of Nord Stream across the Baltic Sea to Germany as part of plans to bypass Ukraine, which is currently the main route of transit to Europe.
Last month, the US Senate approved a defense bill imposing sanctions related to both TurkStream and Nord Stream 2 as part of measures designed “to deter Russian aggression.”