Turkish energy projects unharmed by row with Russia, says Erdogan

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech during his meeting with mukhtars at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, November 26, 2015. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey’s row with Moscow over the downing of a Russian jet over Syria has not affected joint energy projects, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday.

Russia has imposed trade sanctions against Turkey, including freezing investment projects and restricting food imports, after the Turkish air force last week shot down a Russian fighter bomber near the Syrian border as it took part in the Kremlin’s campaign against militants in Syria.

Russia buys about $1 billion worth of Turkish food and other products annually and is Turkey’s No. 1 energy provider, shipping gas, coal and oil. It is also due to build Turkey’s first nuclear power station in the town of Akkuyu, a deal worth $20 billion.

“There is no sign yet that the problems with Russia will affect projects like natural gas and the Akkuyu nuclear power plant,” Erdogan said in a speech to businessmen that was broadcast live by NTV news channel.

He denied Russian assertions that Moscow had suspended talks with Turkey on the planned TurkStream natural gas pipeline project, saying Turkey was the one to halt work.

“Do not believe the erroneous press reports that Russia has halted TurkStream. Just the opposite. This is a project that we shelved because our demands were not met,” he said.

“No negativity has resulted from the problems we have recently faced,” he said. “Turkey will not collapse because of your imports of $1 billion. Who cares if you buy it or not? We’ll find other sources behind different doors.”

Turkey is seeking to buy additional gas from Qatar and Azerbaijan should Russian supplies decline, he said. It will also pursue renewable, domestic sources.

(This story has been refiled to change ‘not meant’ to ‘not met’ in paragraph 6)

Reporting by Ayla Jean Yackley; Editing by Kevin Liffey