Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 63

Russia and Georgia scored some initial successes recently in what is sure to become the "great game" of the early 21st century: the struggle for control over — and revenues from — shipping, oil, and natural gas from the Caspian region and Central Asia westward to Europe. (Itar-Tass, March 26-27; Interfax, March 27, 29) Talks in Moscow on March 25-27 between representatives of Russia’s Transneft oil pipeline monopoly and Azerbaijan’s SOCAR State Oil Company ended with an agreement that Transneft will begin shipping Azeri oil to Europe in October via the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiisk. Some 200,000 tons are to be delivered by the end of 1997. This figure is to climb to 1.5 million tons in 1998 and to 5 million tons a year by 2002. Meanwhile, Georgian Railroad officials report that some 2-3 cargoes per day of crude oil extracted from Kazakstan’s Tengiz field (in the Caspian Sea) are being shipped by Chevron through Azerbaijan to the Georgian port city of Batumi. (Interfax, March 27) Chevron is to ship some 1.2 million tons of Tengiz crude oil across Georgia by the end of the year.

By contrast, plans for the much-discussed link between Azerbaijan and Ukraine have been slower to come to fruition. Although Azerbaijani president Haidar Aliev’s state visit to Ukraine on March 25-26 was described by his foreign minister, Hasan Hasanov, as "extremely successful," Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma declared at its conclusion that no definitive agreement concerning the trans-shipment of Azeri oil via Ukraine (and Georgia) had been reached. However, Kuchma did say that a certain transportation "variant" was discussed, according to which Azeri oil would be shipped from the Georgian port of Poti to the Ukrainian city of Odessa. Kuchma claimed that such a scheme would be significantly cheaper than shipping oil via the "northern route" through Russia.

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