Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin have met four times in the past three months

Ankara (AFP) - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan backs the Kremlin’s idea of creating an international gas hub in Turkey and wants his government to quickly present implementation plans, Turkish media reported Friday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed piping natural gas to southern Europe via Turkey following the near total disruption of Russian supplies via the Nord Stream project.

The idea raised the immediate alarm of European powers such as France, with President Emmanuel Macron’s office saying it made “no sense”.

Russia already supplies Turkey with gas via the TurkStream link under the Black Sea.

Erdogan said on his return flight from talks with Putin in Kazakhstan on Thursday that the new distribution centre would probably be established in Thrace, a northwestern region near Bulgaria.

“We have a national distribution centre, but of course now this will be an international distribution centre,” Erdogan told reporters after holding his fourth meeting with the Russian leader in the past three months.

“There will be no waiting on this issue.”

- No truce talks -

Gas prices have skyrocketed since the beginning of Russia’s war and Europe has struggled to find alternative energy supplies after Russia strangled deliveries in response to Western sanctions.

The latest spike came after a series of blasts this month destroyed both lines of Russia’s Nord Stream pipeline to Germany.

Putin said this week that Russia has also thwarted a planned attack against the TurkStream pipeline, without providing evidence or details.

“We are quickly establishing a security net” for the new gas distribution centre project, Erdogan said.

A new distribution centre would take years to complete and require massive investments that Russia might not be able to afford as its economy shrinks from the impact of Western sanctions imposed over its invasion of Ukraine.

The European Union is also taking urgent measures to try and cut off its decades-old dependence on Russian energy supplies.

But Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu argued that Europe needed “additional pipelines, additional facilities” to alleviate its energy crisis.

“It is a matter of supply and demand,” Cavusoglu said.

NATO member Turkey has refused to join in the international sanctions regime against Russia and is trying to use this neutral status to bring the sides together for truce talks.

But Cavusoglu conceded on Friday that the possibility of a ceasefire was diminishing with time.

“The war has progressed, the possibility of a ceasefire has decreased, but we will continue our efforts,” Cavusoglu said.