Turkey threatens to cut off oil from Black Sea ports
As tensions continue to rise following Turkey’s decision to shoot down a Russian fighter jet November 24, the oil trade has become a target in an exchange of blows. Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Turkey of shooting down Russia’s jet in order to protect an ISIS oil trade route earlier this week, a claim Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vehemently denied.
Just days after The Russian plane was shot down, Russia began pulling Turkish products off store shelves, and recommending Russians refrain from traveling to Turkey, which receives roughly $10 billion per year from Russian tourists.
In the latest escalation between the two countries, Turkey threatened to bar Russian oil tankers from passing through the Bosporus Straight, which connects the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, effectively cutting off Russian sea-bound oil from Black Sea ports.
Oil trade by sea represents $440 million for Turkey
Russia’s export monopoly, Transneft, said Turkey stands to lose $440 million per year if it decides to follow through on its decision. “The average transportation of one ton of oil costs $3 not more than $4,” said Transneft President Nikolay Tokarev. “Multiply 110 million tons by $4 – that is what Turkey will lose,” he said.
Igor Demin, an official representative of Transneft, stressed that Turkey had no legal basis for barring Russian vessels from using the straight. Under the Convention Montreux, Turkey only has the right to regulate the passage of warships through the straight, he said. Under the agreement, merchant ships are free to go through straights both in peacetime and in wartime.
Demin stressed that if Turkey did decide to cut off passage to Russian ships, Transneft has enough excess transport capacity via pipeline to still move the oil from the region, but Europe will likely pay the price for Turkey’s decision. “From the perspective of consumers in Europe, [oil] will become slightly more expensive,” he said.
“We, of course, count on the inviolability of the rules on the freedom of shipping across Black Sea straits,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.