Presidents Haidar Aliev of Azerbaijan, Eduard Shevardnadze of Georgia, Nursultan Nazarbaev of Kazakhstan, Suleiman Demirel of Turkey and Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan, joined by U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, signed in Ankara on October 29 a statement of strong support for the planned Baku-Ceyhan (Turkey) pipeline as the Main Export Pipeline (MEP) for Caspian oil. The declaration defines Baku-Ceyhan as a major component of a Eurasian Energy System–a corridor of oil and gas pipelines that would link the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea to its western shore and further to Turkey via Azerbaijan and Georgia. The statement also invites Russia to join in the effort.
Russia opposes the plan and stayed out of the conference, as did Armenia (despite being invited). Aliev commented that the declaration signifies a victory of political will and of commercial common sense over the opponents of the project.
Turkmen President Saparmurat Niazov pulled out of the agreement at the last minute for undisclosed reasons. Those reasons may be related to Ashgabat’s dispute with Baku over three offshore oilfields (Turan, international agencies, October 29).
NAZARBAEV ON OFFICIAL VISIT TO UZBEKISTAN.