Russian Route Cannot be Ignored Russia Says

MOSCOW (Reuters)–Support by Turkey and four neighboring states for a Caspian oil pipeline bypassing Russia does not mean the Russian route has been definitely excluded–Russian officials said on Friday.

"We believe that the economic conditions proposed by the Russian side are optimal and we hope the companies will take a decision in our favor," Oleg Rumyantsev–spokesman for the Fuel and Energy Ministry–told Reuters.

Turkey–Azerbaijan–Uzbekistan–Kazakhstan and Georgia signed on Thursday a declaration of support for a pipeline from new oil fields in the Caspian Sea to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan.

But the key decision on feasibility will be taken by a consortium of 12 companies – the Azerbaijan International Operating Consortium (AIOC) which is expected to make its recommendations on the main export route in November.

The 1,070-mile Baku-Ceyhan pipeline is considered to be the longest and most expensive of three possible routes to deliver Caspian crude to world markets.

The others are to the Georgian Black Sea port of Supsa–and to Russia’s main oil port of Novorossiisk also on the Black Sea.

Russian Foreign Ministry said the Ankara declaration was purely political and should not influence AIOC’s final decision.

"We believe this important question must be decided on the basis of a comprehensive analysis of economic efficiency–legal guarantees and ecological safety of the project," a spokesman quoted Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov as saying in Ankara.

"It is inadmissible to decide this question to the detriment of Russia’s interests," he added.

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