The declaration, signed by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin and Turkey’s Energy Minister Taner Yildiz, comes as a sign that Turkey will be giving Russian firms a second chance to build Ankara’s first plant.
Turkey cancelled a previous tender in November to build a nuclear power station, after a court ruled the tender, won by Russian Inter RAO and Atomstroiexport and Turkey’s Park Teknik, invalid due to problems it cited with the pricing of electricity from the plant.
The memorandum was penned amid an official visit to Russia by Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on expanding energy cooperation. The meetings ended Wednesday with the Putin telling a news conference that Russia had won Turkish support for all its major oil, gas and nuclear projects.
Putin told reporters that Ankara had pledged to fully clear Russian gas pipeline project South Stream before November 2010, when building is due to begin.
“We have an agreement that before November 10, 2010 … the Turkish government will make all the necessary judgments and issue a construction permit. In the course of today’s talks Mr Erdogan confirmed these intentions,” Putin said.
“I very much hope this work will be finished as planned,” he said, adding that the work on South Stream was going according to plan with environmental, geological and seismic studies near completion.
Putin also said the project, which apart from Russia’s gas export monopoly Gazprom involves Italy’s ENI, may benefit from an inter-governmental agreement between Russia, Turkey and Italy.
Russia designed South Stream to deliver gas to southern Europe under the Black Sea to rival Nabucco and bypass Ukraine.
But the need to bypass Ukraine may decrease if Kiev elects a more pro-Russian president at an election this month and save indebted Gazprom billions of euros it needs to spend on South Stream.
Some analysts have suggested Gazprom may even one day join Nabucco, which is so far lacking volumes to make the project profitable.
Turkey aspires to become a key transit hub for Europe, but is facing a tough balancing game between rival projects supported by Moscow and the European Union.
Once Cold War foes, NATO member Turkey and Russia have in recent years deepened their ties by signing a raft of agreements from gas and oil pipelines to nuclear power plants, and have sought closer security cooperation in the Caucasus region.
Turkey, which is using the energy card to promote its membership of the EU, has insisted that South Stream and Nabucco are not rivals, but complementary.
Putin said the governments of Italy, Turkey and Russia should also consider signing a deal to support an oil link between Turkey’s Black Sea coast and the Mediterranean.
He said cooperation between the two states should involve asset swaps between major firms and added Russian firms were ready to take part in the privatization of Turkey’s state assets.
Both Putin and Erdogan also pledged to increase the use of national currencies in bilateral trade, currently at $15.3 billion, which the leaders want to boost to $100 billion within the next five years
Russia is one of Turkey’s top trading partners and its main gas supplier, accounting for about 60 percent of the country’s gas imports. The countries had bilateral trade ties of $33.8 billion in 2008, the Kremlin said.