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Putin Offers to Make Turkey a Gas Hub to Preserve E.U. Energy Hold

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MOSCOW — In an apparent move to solidify Moscow’s hold over European energy markets, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Thursday offered to export more gas via Turkey and turn the country into a regional supply hub for Russian gas exports to European countries.

Mr. Putin was meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey on the sidelines of a summit in Astana, Kazakhstan, days after Moscow launched the biggest aerial barrage against Ukraine since its invasion in February.

Mr. Erdogan has sought to position himself as a mediator between Moscow and Kyiv, and has previously hosted preliminary peace talks in Istanbul in March, although those discussions were inconclusive. On Thursday, the two leaders did not discuss “the topic of a Russian-Ukrainian settlement,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitri S. Peskov said.

The Russian and Turkish leaders have had a complicated relationship with sometimes mutual benefits. For Mr. Putin, the benefits include energy and arms sales, investment and a close connection to a member of NATO, which is trying to isolate him. For Mr. Erdogan, the benefits involve cheap energy, a large export market, renewed Russian tourism and, crucially, apparent Russian acquiescence to his efforts to crush Kurdish separatism in Syria, where Russia supports the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad.

After the Nord Stream Baltic gas pipelines were damaged by explosions last month, Moscow said Turkey could be the best route for redirecting gas supplies to the Europe Union. The explosions are still under investigation.

“If there is an interest from Turkey and our potential buyers in other countries, we could consider the possibility of building another gas pipeline system and creation of a gas hub in Turkey for sales to other countries, to third countries, primarily, of course, to European ones, if they are, of course, interested in this,” Mr. Putin said after the meeting.

Establishing a gas hub in Turkey could make Ankara a powerful player on international gas markets and open the possibility for Russian gas to be sold to Europe via an intermediary. Mr. Putin said that the proposed hub was attractive because it would give both countries more power to set prices.

“We could calmly regulate” prices, said Mr. Putin, “at a normal market level without any political overtones.” Mr. Erdogan did not comment on the offer. Mr. Peskov told state media that both leaders had given instructions to “work out in detail and very quickly” an assessment of the idea.

While his proposals were vague, Mr. Putin seemed to be trying to revive a version of South Stream, a grandiose pipeline under the Black Sea to southern Europe that he scrapped in 2014 in the face of opposition from the European Union and the United States. Following the cancellation, Russia built a smaller pipeline to Turkey, a major customer for Russian gas, and has been supplying some gas to Hungary and other countries through this link.

Energy experts, however, questioned the viability of Mr. Putin’s proposal, saying that it seemed unlikely that the European Union would approve new Russian gas conduits to Europe. Massimo Di Odoardo, vice president for gas research at Wood Mackenzie, a consulting firm in Edinburgh, said that existing pipelines provided enough capacity to increase Russian gas flows to Europe.

“The idea that Europe needs additional pipeline capacity to obtain more Russian gas is not correct,” Mr. Di Odoardo said.

As the gas trade between Russia and Europe has been disrupted by the war in Ukraine, the Kremlin has been looking for ways to divert its gas sales to other countries. On Monday, Mr. Putin said that Russia would soon start the construction of a new pipeline to China.

Mr. Erdogan in July facilitated a U.N.-brokered deal resuming shipment of Ukrainian grain and Russian fertilizers. The deal is set to expire next month. U.N. officials said last week that they were working to extend it for another year, and Mr. Erdogan reaffirmed that Turkey is determined to “strengthen and maintain” the agreement.

Mr. Peskov complained that Moscow was still having problems shipping Russian fertilizers and grains, a key Kremlin demand when it signed on to the deal.

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