Turkey has suspended talks with Gaz de France over a major pipeline that would bring Caspian gas to Europe, in protest at a French bill on the mass killings of Armenians during Ottoman rule, senior Turkish energy officials told Reuters on Thursday.
Nabucco is a 4.6-billion euro ($6.14 billion) project to transport natural gas from Turkey to Austria, passing through Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary. The planned pipeline -- a project backed by the EU and the United States -- would reduce Europe's dependency on Russian gas but has already hit several hurdles. France angered Ankara last year when its national assembly passed a bill making it a crime to deny that the mass killings of Armenians during World War One amounted to genocide.
"We will suspend partnership by Gaz de France until the French presidential elections. We will decide according to policies to be followed after the elections," a senior energy ministry official, who declined to be named, said.
Energy Minister Hilmi Guler declined to comment on the issue of Gaz de France. "We attach great importance to the Nabucco project. We realized the first phase of this project. Turkey is in an important position in meeting Europe's gas need and we are aware of this," Guler told Reuters.
Gaz de France had no immediate comment and French foreign ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei said in a statement the ministry had not yet received any confirmation.
The four other countries involved in the project, Bulgaria, Romania, Austria and Hungary, have already approved partnership with Gaz de France in the project, which will transmit Caspian and Iranian gas to Western Europe. Austrian oil and gas group OMV heads the consortium planning to build the pipeline. Bulgargaz, Transgaz from Romania, MOL of Hungary and Turkey's Botas are also partners in the project.
Finalizing a deal to start building the pipeline has already run into trouble after negotiations with France's Total for a stake collapsed earlier this year.
An EU diplomat in Ankara said the suspension may also be an attempt by Turkey to warn the United States about potential damages to bilateral ties were a similar Armenian genocide bill, currently discussed in the U.S. Congress, to be approved.