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Turkey pays Russian gas in rubles: Erdogan – AFR

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has confirmed that Turkey will pay part of its Russian natural gas imports in rubles.

The announcement originally came from Moscow late Friday after more than four hours of talks between Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi.

The United States is leading international efforts to impose economic sanctions on Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine in February.

But NATO member Turkey has tried to remain neutral in the conflict because it is heavily dependent on Russian energy.

Russia accounted for about a quarter of Turkey’s oil imports and 45 percent of its natural gas purchases last year.

“As Turkey, our door is open to everyone,” Erdogan was quoted as saying on Saturday, telling Turkish reporters on his flight home from Sochi.

“One good thing about this visit to Sochi is that we agreed with Mr. Putin on the ruble,” Erdogan said.

“Of course, since we do this trade in rubles, it will bring money to Turkey and Russia.”

Neither Erdogan nor Russian officials have said what proportion of the gas will be covered by ruble payments.

Avoiding paying for the gas in dollars is helping Turkey protect its dwindling hard currency reserves.

The Turkish government has reportedly spent tens of billions of dollars over the past year to shore up the lira against the sharp drop during its recent economic crisis.

The lira is still down 55 percent against the dollar and consumer prices have risen 80 percent over the past 12 months.

The crisis has complicated Erdogan’s path to a third decade in power with elections due next July.

The United States and the European Union are trying to pressure Russia’s energy customers to switch to ruble payments in order to limit Moscow’s ability to wage its war against Ukraine.

Ruble payments help Russia avoid restrictions on dollar transactions with Moscow that the United States is trying to impose on global banks.

Turkey has refused to join the sanctions regime against Russia, instead pushing for ceasefire talks between Moscow and Kyiv.

In Sochi, Erdogan and Putin promised to expand economic cooperation in sectors such as banking and industry.

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