Turkey will convert some of its payments for Russian gas into rubles and plans to deepen ties with Russia by expanding use of Russia’s Mir payment system, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday.
Erdogan made the comments a day after his meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Sochi.
Moscow originally made the announcement late Friday after the two leaders had their four-hour confab in the North Caucasus. Neither side indicated what percentage of the payments would be in rubles.
The move puts Erdogan at odds with the United States, which has sparked international pressure to impose sanctions on Russia following the February 24 invasion of Ukraine.
Ruble payments help Russia avoid dollar payments and restrictions on those payments due to sanctions.
What did Erdogan say about Turkish banking?
After that visit on Friday, Erdogan told reporters on his return flight that there is a new “road map” to improve bilateral relations that will serve as a “source of power between Turkey and Russia in financial terms.”
Turkey said five banks were working to expand the use of the Mir payment system, making it easier for Russian tourists in Turkey, one of the few remaining countries in Europe that still offers flights to and from Russia.
The European Union, of which Turkey is not a member despite flirting with the possibility in the early years of Erdogan’s rule, has closed its airspace to Russian planes and revoked landing rights for Russian airlines.
Russia’s fleets are also sanctioned in such a way that new parts for old aircraft, along with maintenance, are hard to come by.
In addition to these sanctions, major Russian banks have been banned from the SWIFT transnational bank communication network, making transferring money an extremely difficult task for Russians at most banks around the world.
Russians accounted for the second largest number of tourists in Turkey in the first half of 2022, with only German tourists.
Does Turkey rely on Russian gas?
Turkey is a NATO member state, and its move to boost trade with Russia underscores Russia’s reliance on energy, along with other sectors of the economy.
Russia supplies about a quarter of Turkey’s oil imports and will account for nearly half of its natural gas purchases in 2021.
Russia is also building the country’s first nuclear power plant as part of a joint venture with Ankara.
ar/fb (TUSEN, dpa)