Publication: Monitor Volume: 1 Issue: 127

Only the "early" oil from Azerbaijan, but not the much larger amounts of "future" Azeri oil, can be allowed through the Turkish straits, senior Turkish officials told an international oil conference yesterday. State minister Necmettin Cevheri and Energy minister Sinasi Altiner were cited as cautioning Western oil companies and, obliquely, Russia against insisting that Turkey open the Bosporus and Dardanelles to large-capacity tankers that would load Azeri oil in Russia. Because the passage of tankers through the middle of Istanbul would pose intolerable safety hazards, the only practicable route for the "future" Azeri oil is through eastern Turkey to the Mediterranean, the officials insisted. The officials also reaffirmed Turkey’s readiness to buy the entire annual output of "early" oil from Azerbaijan. (14)

Turkey’s position on both matters was known well before the October 9 two-pipeline decision regarding the "early" Azeri oil, which is due on stream in 1996 at five million tons annually. But the reiteration of Turkey’s position at this juncture carries at least two major implications. First, that Turkey is prepared to match Russia’s claim to transport the bulk of the "early" oil through its territory, given that the two-pipeline decision does not apportion amounts to be carried through either pipeline. And second and more importantly in the long run, that Russia will probably be unable to have the "future" oil routed through its territory because Turkey would deny it the only available sea lane to Western markets. Russia’s alternative route involving construction of a Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline seems highly unrealistic and uneconomical. Turkey is in a strong position to compete for transporting the bulk of "future" Azeri oil, due on stream by the year 2000 at 45 million tons annually.

Clashes in Tajikistan.