Turkey, Russia outline route of Turkish Stream pipeline

Istanbul (AFP) - Turkey and Russia on Sunday tentatively agreed on the route for their planned Turkish Stream gas pipeline which Moscow hopes will replace its now scrapped South Stream project.

Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz and Gazprom chief executive Alexei Miller surveyed the route over the Black Sea during a four-hour ride by helicopter from Istanbul.

Russian President Vladimir Putin dramatically scrapped the South Stream project during a visit to Ankara in December, blaming the European Union for placing obstructions in its way.

The South Stream pipeline aimed to carry Russian gas from southern Russia to EU consumers under the Black Sea avoiding Ukraine, whose relations with Russia are currently in deep crisis.

It was to have surfaced in EU member Bulgaria.

Under the new Turkish Stream project, the pipeline will surface on Turkish territory on the Black Sea and then carry the gas overland up to the Greek border.

Yildiz told the Anatolia news agency that the pipeline landfall was planned to be in the Turkish Black Sea town of Kiyikoy.

The Turkish Stream pipeline would go through Turkey's Luleburgaz region to the town of Ipsala on the Turkey-Greece border.

"We had an opportunity to... explore the pipeline route," Yildiz told Anatolia. "We passed over some places two to three times as we tried to assess how we can work with environmental concerns,"he added.

Gazprom in a statement confirmed the route and said that the length of the onshore pipeline in Turkey would be 180 kilometres (110 miles) after it crosses the Black Sea.

"The tentative date for the completion of the first line is December 2016," it said.

The capacity of the pipeline -- to be built by a new Gazprom subsidiary -- will be 63 billion cubic meters of gas. About 50 billion cubic meters will be delivered to the Ipsala gas hub for further export.

The Turkish Stream pipeline is seen as a symbol of a burgeoning new relationship between Turkey and Russia, at a time when both countries have chilly ties with the West.

Turkey is an official candidate for EU membership but that process has stalled in recent years over several stumbling blocks, including its human rights record and objections from some EU states to admitting an overwhelmingly Muslim country.

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