Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have marked the completion of a key phase of TurkStream, a natural gas pipeline connecting the two countries.

Speaking at a ceremony in Istanbul, Erdogan announced the offshore part of TurkStream’s two parallel lines two kilometers deep in the Black Sea had been finished and said the final leg of the “historic project” had been reached.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, shake hands after attending an event marking the completion of one of the phases of the Turkish Stream natural gas pipeline, in Istanbul, Monday, Nov. 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, shake hands after attending an event marking the completion of one of the phases of the Turkish Stream natural gas pipeline, in Istanbul, Monday, Nov. 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

The lines are expected to supply Russian gas to Turkey and European markets through Turkish territories. Together, the two 930-kilometer (578-mile) lines under the Black Sea, along with the Russian and Turkish onshore pipes, will carry 31.5 billion cubic meters (1.1 trillion cubic feet) of natural gas annually.

“We are witnessing a very important event that is a clear demonstration of a partnership and cooperation between our countries in dealing with the most complex and ambitious projects,” Putin said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, attend an event marking the completion of the offshore part of TurkStream natural gas pipeline that will carry natural gas from Russia to Turkey, in Istanbul, Monday, Nov. 19, 2018. The two 930-kilometer (578-mile) lines when finished are expected to carry 31.5 billion cubic meters (1.1 trillion cubic feet) of Russian natural gas annually to European markets, through Turkish territories. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, attend an event marking the completion of the offshore part of TurkStream natural gas pipeline that will carry natural gas from Russia to Turkey, in Istanbul, Monday, Nov. 19, 2018. The two 930-kilometer (578-mile) lines when finished are expected to carry 31.5 billion cubic meters (1.1 trillion cubic feet) of Russian natural gas annually to European markets, through Turkish territories. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Erdogan said the two countries aimed for long-term cooperation and their relationship was not dictated by “other countries’ impositions.”

“The implementation of projects like this one is a good example of an ability to stand up for one’s own national interests,” Putin added.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, arrive to an event marking the completion of one of the phases of the Turkish Stream natural gas pipeline, in Istanbul, Monday, Nov. 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, arrive to an event marking the completion of one of the phases of the Turkish Stream natural gas pipeline, in Istanbul, Monday, Nov. 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

The remarks appear to be referring to the Kremlin’s long-standing position that some European nations are giving up lucrative deals with Russia under pressure from the United States.

Backdropped by Turkey's flag officials wait for an event to be attended by Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin, marking the completion of one of the phases of the Turkish Stream natural gas pipeline, in Istanbul, Monday, Nov. 19, 2018.  The two 930-kilometer (578-mile) lines when finished are expected to carry 31.5 billion cubic meters (1.1 trillion cubic feet) of Russian natural gas annually to European markets, through Turkish territories.(AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Backdropped by Turkey’s flag officials wait for an event to be attended by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin, marking the completion of one of the phases of the Turkish Stream natural gas pipeline, in Istanbul, Monday, Nov. 19, 2018. The two 930-kilometer (578-mile) lines when finished are expected to carry 31.5 billion cubic meters (1.1 trillion cubic feet) of Russian natural gas annually to European markets, through Turkish territories.(AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Turkey relies on imports for its energy needs and Russia is its top supplier for natural gas. It bought 28 billion cubic meters last year. That gas is currently transported through another line under the Black Sea and the onshore West Line through Ukraine, which is mired in conflict with Russia.

“Turkey will be able to fulfill its own as well as European countries’ natural gas demands without being exposed to transit risks,” Erdogan said, as he announced that TurkStream would begin operations in 2019.

Backdropped by Russia's flag officials wait for an event to be attended by Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin, marking the completion of one of the phases of the Turkish Stream natural gas pipeline, in Istanbul, Monday, Nov. 19, 2018. The two 930-kilometer (578-mile) lines when finished are expected to carry 31.5 billion cubic meters (1.1 trillion cubic feet) of Russian natural gas annually to European markets, through Turkish territories.(AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Backdropped by Russia’s flag officials wait for an event to be attended by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin, marking the completion of one of the phases of the Turkish Stream natural gas pipeline, in Istanbul, Monday, Nov. 19, 2018. The two 930-kilometer (578-mile) lines when finished are expected to carry 31.5 billion cubic meters (1.1 trillion cubic feet) of Russian natural gas annually to European markets, through Turkish territories.(AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Ukraine’s struggling economy relies on fees it receives for transporting Russian gas. Russia has threatened to stop using Ukrainian pipelines for transit but has not made any decisions to stop using Ukraine as a transit point altogether.

Turkey and Russia have warmed in the last two years after Erdogan apologized for downing a Russian fighter jet along the border with Syria 2015 that soured relations. Their increasing cooperation in energy and trade as well as Turkey’s pledge to buy a Russian surface-to-air missile defense system has worried NATO-member Turkey’s Western allies.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, 3rd right, looks at Russian President Vladimir Putin, centre, following an event marking the completion of one of the phases of the Turkish Stream natural gas pipeline, in Istanbul, Monday, Nov. 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, 3rd right, looks at Russian President Vladimir Putin, centre, following an event marking the completion of one of the phases of the Turkish Stream natural gas pipeline, in Istanbul, Monday, Nov. 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

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Source: The Associated Press