Speaking to reporters after his talks with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, Russian President Vladimir Putin signaled the readiness of Moscow and Ankara to support the extension of the Turkish Stream gas pipeline to Bulgaria.
"We and our Turkish partners have always discussed the option of bringing the Turkish Stream [pipeline] to Europe, including through Bulgaria," Putin stressed, adding that "Turkish President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan confirmed this again in our phone conversation" earlier this week.
According to Putin, "relevant transportation capacities" will be installed on Bulgarian territory in the near future.
Commenting on the matter, Gurkan Kumbaroglu, President of the International Association for Energy Economics and Professor at Bogazici Universitesi (Bosphorus University), recalled that the extension of the Turkish Stream pipe to Bulgaria has been discussed since 2015.
"At the time, the EU hammered out a project to invest European funds in infrastructure for the construction of a gas pipeline to Slovakia via Bulgarian territory," Kumbaroglu said.
Touching upon the Turkish Stream project, he noted that "if the second leg of Turkish Stream is laid through Bulgaria, this will not mean big changes for Turkey."
"Ultimately, the second branch, with its annual capacity of 15.75 billion cubic meters of gas will be directed to Europe. After being laid through Turkish soil, the branch can pass either via Greece or Bulgaria without affecting Turkey's [economic interests]," Kumbaroglu pointed out.
He also did not rule out that the decision on the Turkish Stream pipeline's extension to Bulgaria "will have a positive impact on relations between Sophia and Ankara."
Separately, he referred to the EU's Projects of Common Interest Program, which specifically stipulates implementing a project to supply gas from the Eastern Mediterranean to Greece.
"From the economic point of view, Turkish Stream being laid via Bulgarian territory somewhat shortens the length of the route. The gas from the Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline will be delivered to Europe through Greece. If we talk about the convenience of the route, gas supplies to southeastern Europe via Bulgaria seem more logical," Kumbaroglu concluded.
The annual capacity of each leg is estimated to reach 15.75 billion cubic meters of natural gas. One route is designed to deliver gas directly to the Turkish market and the other is for transit gas supplies through Turkey to European countries.
Pipe-laying work for the pipeline is scheduled to wrap up in late 2019.