Ukraine and Georgia in oil-link around Russia

Feb 14, 1997 01:00 AM

The presidents of Ukraine and Georgia said recently that they wanted to co-operate on energy supplies and that an oil pipeline, expected to be modernised with Ukrainian help, could help reduce dependence on Russia. "Getting energy supplies is a matter of national security and we are interested in co-operation with Georgia on this," Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma told He and his Georgian counterpart Eduard Shevardnadze said bilateral trade would skyrocket to $500 million this year -- nine times higher than in 1996.
Ukraine and Georgia launched a Black Sea ferry link last December, marking the start of a Euro-Asian Transport corridor which should eventually bring Caspian oil to the West. The link between Ukraine's port of Odessa and Georgia's port of Poti now serves only trucks, but Shevardnadze said it would also serve trains by mid-year. He said a second link was planned between Odessa and Batumi on Georgia's Turkish border. A Ukrainian government source said Ukraine wanted to help Georgiamodernise an existing 430-km (270-mile) oil pipeline from Azerbaijan to Georgia. The project could help Ukraine diversify energy supplies."We want to diversify energy sources and have been looking for oil for several years in the Middle East and Iran," he said. "But shortages of terminals and tankers mean low deliveries." Georgian Minister of State Niko Lekishvili said the project, costing an estimated $ 400 million, would give Ukraine an extra four million tonnes of oil per year by 2000, with the potential for an annual 28 mm tonnes after the reconstruction of an oil terminal in Batumi.Currently Kiev imports about 30 million tonnes of oil a year, almost all of it from Russia. Ukraine is already building an oil terminal with early capacity of 40 million tonnes near Odessa and building a new pipeline from there to the Druzhba pipeline in western Ukraine. It wants to use the new link to export Azeri oil to Europe.

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