President Eduard Shevardnadze yesterday told the country on radio that the recent, abortive assaults on him and on UN officers had failed to destabilize Georgia, and did not diminish its reliability as a transit route for Caspian oil. Those had been the goals of the terrorist operations, Shevardnadze stated; and "the whole world now understands where they originated and whom the terrorists served." The president pointed out that transiting the main Caspian oil through Georgia "does not contradict Russia’s legitimate interests" since Russia has its own export routes to Europe. Shevardnadze expressed thanks to Azerbaijani President Haidar Aliev for coming out publicly in favor of laying through Georgia the main export pipeline for Caspian oil. (Radio Tbilisi, March 2)
In a related development, the Chevron company of the U.S. signed yesterday with Georgia’s Oil Products company and the British-Turkish enterprise Caspian Transco an agreement on the transport of oil from Kazakhstan across Georgia. The agreement envisages overhauling an existing pipeline and laying a new stretch to connect that pipeline with Azerbaijan’s network. This will boost the transit of Kazakhstani oil to 3.5 million tons this coming July and to eight million tons next year. These amounts will add to the already functioning transit by railroad tank cars across Georgia. (International agencies, March 2)
The oil originates from Kazakhstan’s giant Tengiz field, where Chevron has the controlling interest. Tengiz oil is currently being shipped across the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan, thence to Georgia and on to international markets. An international consortium’s plan to lay an export pipeline from Tengiz via Russia has been stalled for years despite Moscow’s strong interest in starting the project. The signing of yesterday’s agreement in Tbilisi and other plans to expand oil transit through Georgia (see below) reflect undiminished confidence in Georgia’s stability in the wake of the recent terrorist assaults.
The Five Key Countries Endorse Baku-Ceyhan Pipeline.