Turkey and Russia have resumed talks on creating a regional natural gas hub, Turkey’s energy minister said, with the question of where the fuel would be traded emerging as a potential sticking point.

Russia suggested a new trading platform but Ankara thinks its existing Energy Exchange Istanbul, known by its Turkish initials Epias, could be expanded instead, Alparslan Bayraktar told reporters on Thursday. 

“We only need to make maybe some additional adjustment or changes on the electronic trading platform of Epias” and perhaps provide different products or futures contracts, Bayraktar said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin came up with the gas-hub plan last year, suggesting that building more Black Sea links to Turkey would make that route Russia’s main westbound export corridor. Moscow is looking to tighten ties with Ankara after relations with the European Union deteriorated sharply amid Putin’s war in Ukraine. 

Talks on the gas hub idea had stalled after deadly earthquakes hit Turkey in February, followed by an election in the country in May, Bayraktar said, in the first high-level public admission of a delay.

Gas Trading

The Epias exchange is owned by Turkish state electricity distributor Turkiye Elektrik Iletim AS, stock exchange Borsa Istanbul AS and private sector market participants. Borsa Istanbul is in turn majority owned by the state via the sovereign wealth fund TVF.

Bayraktar said there is no real need for an additional gas trading platform, but was open to discuss ideas for a new one. He acknowledged that trading on the current platform is “limited” due to the dominance of state gas company Botas, adding that he hoped private importers would play a bigger role over the next year.

“If we are going to bring more gas, if we are going to bring more players into the game, maybe a new exchange could be more meaningful. We are not against creating an additional gas trading platform,” he said.