Chinese Vice President urges Kazakhstan oil pipeline project

Jul 28, 2000 02:00 AM

Chinese Vice President Hu Jintao urged progress on a long-stalled oil pipeline project with Kazakhstan after the discovery of what may be one of the world's largest offshore oil fields. China and Kazakhstan felt "both parliaments should speed up the work on the preliminary scientific and technical basis," for the proposed 2,822 km (1,763 mile) oil pipeline to run from Atyrau in western Kazakhstan to western China, Hu said.
The pipeline proposal would transport 20 mm tpy of oil to China at a cost of $ 3 bn (3.2 bn euros). "I think this project has prospects as it has been given the political support of both countries," said Kazakh Foreign Minister Yerlan Idrisov after a meeting with Hu and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
Hu's visit comes less than a week after a consortium of major Western oil companies announced the discovery of one of the world's largest offshore oilfields. Kazakh officials believe the East Kashagan field in the Caspian Sea could contain 7 bn tons (around 50 bn barrels) of oil, and help catapult the country among the top five oil producing countries.
China expects its demand for oil and gas to rise sharply over the next century and is studying several pipeline options to tap Central Asia's resources. However, the Kazakhstan-China project has long appeared stalled and analysts doubt it will be commercially viable.

Speaking earlier after talks with Prime Minister Kasymzhomart Tokayev in the Kazakh capital Astana, Hu congratulated the Central Asian country on the oil find. Moves to boost trade, which last year rose 80 % to more than $ 1 bn, as well as bilateral relations and regional issues, were also discussed during Hu's visit.
Meanwhile the Chinese vice president called for cooperation between China and its smaller Central Asian neighbour to combat instability in the volatile and resource-rich region. "Both sides expressed their readiness to jointly withstand the forces of national separatism, terrorism and religious extremism," said Hu.
Beijing has been nervous over Muslim separatists in its western regions and has worked with former Soviet Union countries to control terrorist activities attributed to Uighur separatists. The Central Asian region was shaken last year when Islamic rebels took four Japanese geologists hostage in Kyrgyzstan, and after a series of bomb explosions attributed to Muslim extremists in the Uzbek capital Tashkent.
"Separatism and security in the region as a whole should become a base for development of cooperation," Tokayev said at a joint press conference with his Chinese guest. Hu, who is seen in China as being groomed to take over the party leadership and state presidency from Jiang Zemin, was in Central Asia as part of a lengthy tour which has taken in Thailand, Indonesia and Belarus.

Source: AFP
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