U.S. president Bill Clinton "supports the idea of pumping Azerbaijani oil through two pipelines, via Russia and via Transcaucasia," according to the Itar-Tass account of Clinton’s 25-minute telephone conversation October 2 with Azeri president Haidar Aliev.
U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan Richard Kauzlarich told a Baku briefing that the U.S. position on choosing the pipeline route has undergone "clarifications." Both "early" and the "main" oil (due on stream in 1996 and from 2000, respectively) must be routed partly via Turkey and partly via Russia, in the interest of transportation safety and because Russia can not be "isolated," Kauzlarich was quoted as saying. (14)
These statements may set the stage for the Azerbaijani International Oil Company’s (AIOC) final decision, expected October 9, on a Georgian-Turkish or a Russian route for the "early" oil.
Clinton administration officials had signaled back in June a preference for routing part of AIOC’s oil via Russia for political reasons. A two-route decision for this project may set a precedent for similar decisions for other Caspian oilfields, routing part of their output via Russia. The additional route from Russia to Western markets, as mapped by Moscow, would be circuitous and broken into costly piping and tanking stages.
Shevardnadze Stabilizing Security Situation.