Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko discussed forging a new energy co-operation with Turkish officials during a surprise visit to Istanbul on Monday.
Poroshenko, who held talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said Ukraine was discussing the implementation of a joint energy project, including a “trilateral cooperation between Ukraine, Turkey and Qatar.”
The Ukrainian president’s trip was not announced in advance by either side.
Ukraine is seeking to import liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Qatar to make up for energy shortfalls from its standoff with Russia.
oroshenko visited Qatar in March, saying afterwards that the Gulf State was prepared to provide Ukraine with LNG. However, those shipments would have to transit through the Bosporus in Turkey, thereby requiring Ankara’s explicit permission.
The Turkish government has so far resisted allowing potentially hazardous cargo to pass through its waterways. It was unclear following Monday’s talks whether it was prepared to change its mind.
According to a Ukrainian government statement, the two sides also discussed Turkey deploying UN peacekeepers in eastern Ukraine, which is currently occupied by pro-Russian separatist forces, and the fate of the Turkic Tatar minority on the Crimean peninsula, which was annexed by Russia in 2014.
The Turkish presidency issued a shorter statement on the talks with Poroshenko, saying the leaders spoke “while standing up” at Istanbul airport ahead of Erdogan’s flight to Ankara.
Cavusoglu said in a tweet that the two sides discussed “bilateral relations and regional issues” during the Ukrainian president’s “one day visit to Istanbul.”
Ukraine’s energy worries
Poroshenko’s Turkey trip came just a day ahead of Tuesday’s scheduled visit to Berlin. There, the Ukrainian president is expected to urge German Chancellor Angela Merkel to abandon the Nord Stream 2 project — a controversial new pipeline that would allow Russia to deliver gas to Germany via the Baltic Sea, rather than transiting through Ukraine.
Ukraine is currently the largest energy transit hub for Russian gas flowing into the European Union, although the levels of gas arriving through the central European country have decreased in recent years.
Kyiv fears that a second pipeline would risk of Russia shutting off gas supplies to Ukraine altogether, as the two countries remain stuck in a years-long diplomatic deadlock.
Writing in Germany’s Handelsblatt newspaper on Monday, Poroshenko said the Nord Stream 2 pipeline would enable to Russia to forge an “economic and energy blockage” against his country.
Last month, Ukraine announced it was imposing sanctions on former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder over his support of the Russian government and his $500,000-a-year (€400,000) job on the board of Russian state-owned oil firm Rosneft.