Georgia Turkey Pledge to Support Oil Pipeline

TBILISI (Reuter)–Georgia and Turkey signed a joint declaration Monday supporting the construction of a proposed oil pipeline to run from new Caspian Sea fields across their territories.

The document was part of a general agreement on straightening bilateral ties signed between Turkish President Suleyman Demirel and Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze.

Demirel is on the first day of a two-day state visit to the former Soviet republic–his third to Georgia since it gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

The proposed route–from the Azeri capital Baku across Georgia to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan–is one of three under consideration by the Azeri government. The second would go from Baku to Georgia’s outlet at Supsa and the third through Russia to its port of Novorossiisk.

Azeri President Gaidar Aliyev has repeatedly said he favors the Baku-Ceyhan route.

An $8 billion Western consortium–the British Petroleum/Statoil-led Azerbaijan International Operating Company is developing three new offshore fields in Azerbaijan’s sector of the Caspian.

It wants the route to be ready by 2002. AIOC’s output is scheduled to peak at 700,000-800,000 barrels per day by 2007 to 2010.

"The Baku-Ceyhan route–in comparison with other alternatives–from the technical point of view is the most easily technically feasible and as well has advantages from an economic–strategic–and ecological standpoint," reads the document.

Ankara has repeatedly said that the other two routes would involve shipping oil in tankers across the Black Sea and through the Bosphorous straits near Istanbul. It says this is unacceptable as the straits are already overloaded with traffic.

Georgia and Turkey also signed agreemen’s in the areas of military training–taxation–education–sea traffic–borders–real estate–archives–and transport.

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