Exports from the Blue Stream Pipeline to Restart Next Month

Turkey, locked in a dispute with Gazprom over a natural gas contract, will begin importing Russian gas through the Blue Stream pipeline on Friday, both parties said Tuesday.

"We have a notification from Turkey that they'll restart gas purchases in line with existing contracts," Gazprom said in a statement. "Turkey will start to buy 4 million cubic meters of gas a day and supplies will increase in autumn and in winter."

Turkish Energy Minister Hilmi Guler told reporters in Ankara earlier Tuesday that a compromise had been reached to open the pipeline by Aug. 1.

The $3.3 billion Blue Stream pipeline, built by Gazprom and Italy's Eni SpA, has been idle since April. Turkey was seeking to buy less gas at lower prices than it had pledged and previously rejected several price reduction offers by Gazprom as being too little.

Turkey is committed to buying more gas than it needs after a recession in 2001 slowed demand. Its contract with Gazprom requires it to pay for gas as of July 1, even if it is not delivered, because of a so-called take-or-pay clause. Gazprom has a contact to supply 800 million cubic meters of gas to Turkey by the year's end. Turkey and Gazprom threatened in late June to take each other to an international arbitration court after failing to agree on prices and the volume of gas supplies. Gazprom Deputy CEO Yury Komarov will hold talks with Guler on Wednesday in Ankara on gas supplies and the Russian company's investments in the Turkish gas industry, Gazprom said in its statement.

Gazprom's exports to European countries outside the Commonwealth of Independent States rose 9 percent in the first six months of the year over the same period in 2002. The company plans to sell $15 billion of gas to Western Europe this year.

Turkey this year became Gazprom's third-largest customer after Germany and Italy and ahead of France.