Yeltsin Calls Azeri Russian Oil Deal a Mistake

MOSCOW (RFE/Ria Novosti)–The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement confirming that the Russian oil companies Rosneft and Lukoil have withdrawn from the contract they signed in early July with the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR) to develop the Kyapaz (Serdar) Caspian oil field–when Azeri President Gaidar Aliyev was on an official visit to Moscow–Itar Tass reported. Turkmen’stan had immediately protested that the oilfield in question lies in Turkmen’stan’s sector of the Caspian.

On July 31–a spokesman for Rosneft President Yuri Bespalov told Interfax Rosneft would withdraw from the contract. The "Financial Times" on Wednesday–however–quoted a spokesman for Lukoil as saying that Lukoil will not withdraw. Also on Tuesday–Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mahmud Vaezi criticized the signing by Azerbaijan of four new major oil contracts with US companies–AFP reported. Vaezi said the contracts "ignore the rights and interests of other countries" and risk precipitating a crisis in the Caspian region.

Following a meeting with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov in the Kremlin Thursday–Russian President Boris Yeltsin said the agreement on the principles of developing the Kyapaz deposit on the Caspian shelf was a mistake and has been canceled.

Yeltsin pointed out that the agreement "was signed by the companies–bypassing the President and government structures." The official cancellation of the agreement is given in the communiqu which will be issued on the results of President Niyazov’s visit to Russia.

He stated that he had a long talk with Rem Vyakhirev–chairman of RAO Gazprom–Wednesday.

They discussed issues related to Turkmen’stan.

The Russian President stressed the importance of maintaining regular contacts between Moscow and Ashkhabad.

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