A plan by Russia to build a new gas route to southern Europe gained momentum on Wednesday after Turkey agreed to host the Black Sea section of the pipeline in its territorial waters.

Turkish approval for South Stream was hailed by Vladimir Putin as “a big event in Europe’s energy sphere”.

South Stream will transport up to 63bn cubic metres a year of Russian gas to south and central Europe from 2015, reducing Russia’s overwhelming dependence on gas export routes across Ukraine. In November, the first Russian gas was pumped to Germany under the Baltic Sea through the new Nord Stream pipeline, which will carry 55bn cubic metres of gas by 2013.

Russia’s Gazprom has teamed up with Germany’s Wintershall, Eni of Italy and Électricité de France to build the 900km offshore section of South Stream to link southern Russia with Bulgaria.

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