Turkey offers Russia to take part in Caspian oil pipeline to Mediterranean

Dec 23, 1996 01:00 AM

Turkey has asked Russia to take part in a Turkish project to transport oil from rich Caspian Sea fields to the Mediterranean via a pipeline through Turkish territory. The proposed pipeline between Baku, capital of the Caucasian republic of Azerbaijan, and Turkey's Mediterranean port of Ceyhan is in fierce competition with a Russian option to carry the Caspian oil to Russia's Black Sea port of Novorossiysk. "Turkey is not against the Baku-Novorossiysk option but is also keen to materialise the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline," a Turkish oil source told. "In doing this we are seeking co-operation, not rivalry with Moscow. We propose that Russia's pipeline company Transneft construct a major portion of the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline. Transneft is interested in our offer and we will see in the near future if there can be co-operation," the source said. Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Turkish Foreign Minister Tansu Ciller briefly discussed possible co-operation on Caspian oil and gas issues when Cillervisited Moscow mid December. Ciller said that the two countries had decided to set up a working group to discuss the matter in detail. A consortium of western, Azeri and Russian companies signed an $ 8 bn accord with the Baku government in 1994 to develop three Azeri oil fields in the Caspian Sea. To export early oil of up to 6 mmtpy from these fields in the next few years, the consortium has adopted two pipeline routes, one between Baku and Novorossiysk and the other between Baku and Georgia's Black Sea port of Soupsa. But after 2002 when full production is due to start, some 45 million tonnes of Azeri oil are planned to flow annually to international markets via at least one main pipeline. The likely candidates are the Russian and the Turkish options. Azerbaijan's President Geidar Aliyev said in mid-December that he favoured both pipeline routes. The consortium is due to decide on the main pipeline route in late 1997. The Russians are divided on oil policies. Chernomyrdin, who is from the energy sector himself, the oil and energy ministry and Transneft are sympathetic to co-operating with Turkey. But the Russian foreign ministry as well as some advisors to President Boris Yeltsin are strictly against any non-Russian pipeline route from former Soviet republics. Ankara and Moscow are also involved in a related rift regarding Turkish regulations for passage through the Turkish straits connecting the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. Russia says the regulations, endorsed by Turkey in July 1994, effectively limit the passage of oil tankers through the Bosphorus and seriously hamper transport possibilities to and from the Black Sea which is a closed sea. It accuses Ankara of obstructing the transport of oil reaching Novorossiysk. Rejecting the charges Turkey says the regulations are aimed at preventing accidents that could cause an ecological disaster for Istanbul, a city of over 10 million people. To bypass the Turkish straits in the future transport of oil, including petrol from vast fields of Kazakhstan, the Russians have considered the construction of a pipeline between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean through Bulgaria and Greece. However, the talks have recently been stalled due to Bulgaria's demand for high passage fees, western oil sources said. In the latest development, the Russians are considering pumping the oil to a Croatian port on the Adriatic Sea. An oil pipeline already exists between Russia and the border between Hungary and former Yugoslavia. It could be upgraded and extended to reach the Adriatic Sea.

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