Conferring on March 1 and 2 in Istanbul, the Foreign Ministers of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Turkey issued a declaration endorsing a planned east-west corridor as the main export route for Caspian oil. That corridor means, primarily, the projected pipeline from Baku via Georgia to Turkey’s Mediterranean port Ceyhan for shipment to international market. The plan envisages a 1,700 kilometer-long pipeline of an annual capacity of at least 45 million tons, at a cost of at least $ 2.5 billion. The other leg of the project is a trans-Caspian undersea pipeline to pump oil from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to Baku and further into the Baku-Georgia-Ceyhan line. The five countries agreed that the Ceyhan route would best meet the interests of the producing, the transiting, and the consumer countries.
Intended as political support for the project, the declaration expresses support for Turkey’s concern to ensure safety of navigation and ecological security in the Bosporus. This argument precludes using a Russian route for Caspian oil, because in that event the oil would have to be shipped through the Bosporus, whereas Turkey rules this out on safety grounds.
While supporting the Ceyhan route for the main pipeline, the Istanbul declaration speaks of using "multiple pipelines," implying additional routes. This meets a basic concern of producer companies to avoid dependency on a single export route. It also reflects, in this case, Kazakhstan’s continuing consideration of a Russian route for part of Tengiz oil (see above) and Turkmenistan’s interest in a route via Iran or Afghanistan.
Moscow insists on transiting the lion’s share of Caspian oil to Novorossiisk in preference to Ceyhan and opposes a trans-Caspian pipeline. Russia was not invited to the Istanbul meeting. The five countries have scheduled a follow-up meeting in Tbilisi. (Western and Russian agencies, March 2)
Central Asian Regional Economic Cooperation to Receive External Aid.