Azerbaijani President Haidar Aliev’s official visit to Japan, from February 24 through 28, resulted in a contract with the Mitsui company on its participation in developing Azerbaijan’s Kurdashi offshore oilfield. Situated some 120 kilometers south of Baku, the field is estimated to contain 100 million tons of oil at sea depths ranging from 50 to 500 meters. The U.S. company Texaco is expected to join the project, alongside Italy’s Agip and the Azerbaijani State Oil Company, which have already signed on.
The visit also resulted in two long-term, low-interest credit agreements with a Japanese banking consortium, backed up by Japan’s Export-Import Bank. The two loans, amounting to $165 million and $95 million, respectively, will be used for increasing the power supply at the Sumgait petrochemical plants and on the Apsheron peninsula, which is a site of major oil-drilling and processing installations. The Japanese government pledged its support to Azerbaijan’s bid to join the World Trade Organization and the Asian Development Bank. The oil development and credit agreements significantly increase Japan’s economic involvement in Azerbaijan.
While in Tokyo, Aliev reaffirmed Azerbaijan’s support for the major oil export pipeline from Azerbaijan to Turkey, as opposed to the Russian route. He stated that the international consortium involved in the "deal of the century" in Azerbaijan also favors the Turkish route. The consortium has thus far seemed reticent to take a clear-cut public position. (Kyodo, Turan, February 24 through 28)