Kazakhstan proposes Black Sea-Caspian canal

Jun 10, 2007 02:00 AM

Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev proposed building a new canal linking the Caspian Sea through which to ship its oil from the Caspian to the Black Sea.
"A navigable, Eurasian canal linking the Caspian and Black Seas could be crucially important," Nazarbayev said.

Nazarbayev was addressing a conference audience immediately after Russian President Vladimir Putin had exhorted his neighbours to intensify their economic cooperation. However, Nazarbayev appeared intent to distance himself from such a goal.
"Integration isn't a goal in itself," Nazarbayev said, but should rather be driven by "objective causes."

He went on to deliver a thinly-veiled criticism of Russia's stranglehold on the export routes for Kazakh oil. The Russian government is currently blocking an expansion of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium's Tengiz-Novorossiysk pipeline, which is the main route of Kazakh oil to world markets.
"If there are no alternative export routes, we'll have to look for them," Nazarbayev said. "Our region is rich in resources, but we have to deliver them to market, and we will naturally develop the routes that are most favourable to us."

Nazarbayev also attacked the ineffectiveness of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the loose grouping of newly independent republics set up in the wake of the Soviet Union's collapse.
"Centrifugal forces have proved stronger than our efforts to integrate," Nazarbayev said. Russia's trade with its former Soviet neighbours has nonetheless picked up sharply in recent years, its imports from the CIS doubling since 2001 to more than $ 24 bn in 2006. However, they now account for only 15 % of Russia's imports, compared to a share of more than 30 % a decade ago.

Source / Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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