Russian plans to bypass the Bosphorus with oil pipelines to the Mediterranean ought to have become clearer last week, following President Vladimir Putin's visit to Ankara on the Monday, and his meeting with Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis the following Thursday. But the week has ended in a fog of confusion and uncertainty.
Official communiques confirm that pipelines were on the agenda for talks in Turkey, at least between the Turkish and Russian oil ministers. A similar, if vague statement, appeared after Caramanlis visited the Kremlin. However, Transneft, the state pipeline agency, told The Russia Journal that in Ankara "there were no negotiations on the Bosphorus."
Although Semyon Vainshtok, Transneft's chief executive, was with Putin in Ankara, his spokesman Sergei Grigoriev said: "Vainshtok was in Turkey with Putin as a representative of business circles."
Early this year, Vainshtok proposed a Bosphorus bypass pipeline, to run from Kiyikoy to Ibrikhaba, bypassing the Bosphorus, and also challenging the US-backed pipeline route carrying Caspian Sea oil to Ceyhan, on the Mediterranean. The Transneft pipeline proposal carries an estimated price tag of $900 million.
In November, Vainshtok came out against the decade-old plan to pipe Russian crude to the Aegean port of Alexandropoulos, from the Bulgarian terminal of Burgas, supplied by a tanker shuttle across the Black Sea. Vainshtok claimed the 320-km project, costing about $670 million, is not economically viable.
An industry source told The Russia Journal that there were no decisions in Transneft's favour in Ankara, and no decisions against the Greek-Bulgarian plan in Moscow.