The EU intends to toughen its sanctions against Iran from mid-October, by banning the Iranian gas supplies. These will be applied to countries purchasing Iranian gas.
In 2011, Iran exported nine billion cubic meters of gas, the bulk of which (8.5 billion cubic meters) was supplied to Turkey.
Turkey is the largest importer of natural gas in the region, buying an average of 39.7 billion cubic meters annually. It has the agreements with Russia to import gas (30 billion cubic meters per year), with Iran (10 billion cubic meters per year), Azerbaijan (6.6 billion cubic meters (after 2017, plus six billion more from the second phase of Shah Deniz field development). Moreover, Turkey buys liquefied gas from Algeria (four billion cubic meters) and Nigeria (1.2 billion cubic meters).
Along with these agreements, Turkey is also considering the variant of importing liquefied natural gas from Qatar and Saudi Arabia. According to the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, Turkey's energy demand will grow by an average of 1.5 billion cubic meters of gas per year, amounting to 59.3 billion cubic meters per year in 2020.
Turkey's agreement on the gas supplies with Iran was signed in 1996 for 25 years on a 'take or pay' principle. That is, if Turkey refuses to import Iranian gas or reduce it because of the sanctions, the country will have to pay for not taking gas until 2021.
Earlier, Turkey ignored the U.S. sanctions against Iran's oil imports, calling them illegal and their making no sense for Ankara. Turkey did not rush to recognise EU sanctions against Iran's oil imports, adopted last year. Turkish Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Taner Yildiz said that Turkey will switch part of the imported Iranian oil to Saudi Arabian.
Taking into account Ankara's attitude to the sanctions against Iran's energy sector, one can assume that Ankara will not refuse from taking the Iranian gas. Moreover, the country cannot afford this because of the 'take or pay' principle.
Turkey's cooperation with Iran in the field of natural gas imports will be limited by the existing contract, but at the same time, the country is unlikely to sign new contracts with Iran in the field, showing solidarity with the EU.
If one recalls the trial between Turkey and Iran over the decline in gas prices, Ankara in this case can still win due to the EU sanctions.
This means that Turkey previously filed a lawsuit against Iran in the arbitration court with the outcome being announced in April 2013. Turkey may put pressure on Iran, making a condition that either Tehran will reduce gas prices or Ankara will reject Iranian gas.
Taking into account that Turkey is a major importer of Iranian oil, Tehran is likely to significantly reduce gas prices, even without a court of arbitration's decision.
Thus, EU sanctions against the import of Iranian gas can become an exceptional opportunity for Turkey to implement a commercial plan for the country's energy supply without any damage to relations with the EU and Iran.
Aygul Taghiyeva /Trend