ISTANBUL, May 30 (RIA Novosti) - Russia and Turkey are set to sign a new trade and partnership agreement as well as an action plan to bolster economic cooperation, an intergovernmental commission said Tuesday.
At its latest session in Istanbul, the joint trade commission signed a protocol paving the way for the new agreement by setting guidelines for commercial cooperation between the two nations.
Speaking to reporters after the session, the commission's Turkish co-chair, State Minister Kursad Tuzmen, described the protocol as a turning point in the transition of his country and Russia toward wide-ranging economic cooperation, and said it would particularly benefit regional cooperation by facilitating free movement of goods and services.
The commission, co-chaired by Russian Industry and Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko, also discussed measures to ensure continuity of Russian natural gas supplies to Turkey and encourage Russian investment in Turkey's energy sector, as well as cooperation on oil and gas projects, including the Samsun-Ceyhan pipeline project.
Turkey sees the Samsun-Ceyhan pipeline, which will run from the country's Black Sea coast to the Mediterranean, as a major step in creating an oil transportation network to link the Middle East and Asia with Europe. The project, having a projected annual capacity of around 60 million metric tons of oil (439.8 mln barrels), is expected to reduce the environmentally hazardous oil transit through the Bosporus and Dardanelles.
Earlier Tuesday, Russian Ambassador to Turkey Pyotr Stegny said Russian-Turkish relations were gaining momentum primarily due to trade.
"Experts forecast trade at $25 billion by 2007," he said.
According to Turgut Gur, the Turkish co-chairman of the Turkish-Russian Business Council, bilateral trade has been developing at a record pace of late. It hit $15.2 billion last year, with oil and natural gas accounting for 70% of the aggregate turnover.
Supplies of Russian natural gas to Turkey in 2005 grew by 25% year on year, to 18 billion cubic meters, of which 5bln cu m was pumped through the Blue Stream pipeline, the largest Russian-Turkish joint energy project to date. The $3.2-bln pipeline is expected to carry 16 bln cu m annually by 2010.
The sides are now considering building another pipeline across the Black Sea to deliver natural gas through Turkey to third countries, including Italy, Greece and Israel.