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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.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Russia's Vladimir Putin formally launched Wednesday the TurkStream pipeline project, which will carry Russian natural gas to southern Europe through Turkey as part of Moscow’s efforts to reduce shipments via Ukraine.
The pipeline project, stretching 930 km (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 has already started European gas deliveries through the pipeline, gas operator Bulgartransgaz said on Sunday. The pipeline terminal is near the Turkish village of Kiyikoy, some 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the Bulgarian border.
In a bid to supply natural gas to mainland Europe, Russia is also doubling the capacity of Nord Stream (a new gas pipeline) across the Baltic Sea to Germany as part of plans to bypass Ukraine that is currently the main route of transit to the continent. Ukraine halted its own direct imports of Russian gas in November 2015.
Buried under the Black Sea, the TurkStream pipeline has a capacity of 31.5 billion cubic meters, and its two lines supply Turkey, as well as southern and southeastern Europe. The pipeline was completed in the face of the U.S. threatening sanctions.
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 attended by Serbia and Bulgaria's leaders as well.
Russian gas producer Gazprom will ship about three billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas per year to Bulgaria via TurkStream and the second pipeline will extend from Bulgaria to Serbia and Hungary. Bulgaria hopes to be able to make shipments to Serbia by May and build the whole section by year-end.
We are achieving another strategic project in the path towards #Turkey becoming an energy hub. #TurkStream natural gas pipeline, which will carry Russian gas to Europe, enters into service with the participation of our President @RTErdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin. pic.twitter.com/rcVeoRTs00
Apart from the billion-dollar project, both countries 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 Libyan conflict.
“We live in a difficult world, and unfortunately, in the region we’re in now, there are tendencies for the worsening of the situation,” Putin said at the pipeline’s inauguration ceremony in Istanbul, referring to ongoing tensions in Iran, Iraq, and Syria.
However, despite the geopolitical differences of the region, the Russian president stressed that "Turkey and Russia are showing a very different feat: an example of reciprocity and cooperation of our people, of Europe’s people, and those of the entire world. I am sure we’ll be even more successful in the future."
For his part, Erdogan declared that “Turkey does not want any global disagreement or escalation of tensions” called on his country’s Mediterranean neighbors to make the region a "center of cooperation."
"We’ll continue to use our diplomacy, all of the tools that we have, to prevent our region from becoming a region of blood and tears," he added.