US Plans Caspian Diplomatic Drive

HOUSTON (Reuters)–Energy Secretary Bill Richardson said on Monday the United States planned a major diplomatic drive aimed at bringing stability to the oil-rich Caspian Sea region.

"The United States considers the Caspian area a major–important area for America’s national security–but also for the world. Stability is needed in that region," Richardson said.

"The Energy Department is going to make a major effort–involving itself in the Caspian Sea negotiations to accelerate energy security needs for the United States and our allies," he said.

Richardson was addressing reporters at the 17th Congress of the World Energy Council in Houston–a gathering attended by numerous energy ministers and oil company executives.

He said he hoped to travel to the region himself "very soon" and had already had a bilateral meeting in Houston with Turkmen’stan’s energy minister.

"The United States is considering offering itself as a mediator in the Turkmen’stan-Azerbaijan dispute and we’ve made a lot of progress on that," he said.

Richardson said he had also met with top executives of major oil and gas companies about pipeline projects that would transport the region’s hydrocarbons to international markets.

"We do have a policy preference of where the pipeline should be and I will leave it at that," he said.

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