Caspian Pipeline Construction Delayed

ANKARA (AP)–Turkish–Azeri and Georgian officials ended three days of talks Monday that were aimed at overcoming Georgian concerns that have delayed construction of a pipeline to carry oil from the Caspian to Western markets.

The parties have agreed in principle on many issues but will hold further talks next month–the Turkish Energy Ministry said. It gave no further details.

Energy- and cash-starved Georgia is insisting on being exempt from financial obligations to build the pipeline and is demanding up to three percent of all oil crossing its territory as well as environmental guarantees–the Anatolia news agency reported. Georgia is also concerned about pipeline security in the volatile Caucasus region.

Representatives of a consortium of oil companies–and John Wolf–the US envoy specializing in Caspian region energy–attended the talks.

The United States is pushing hard for construction of the pipeline that would link the Azeri capital of Baku to Turkey’s Mediterranean port of Ceyhan–thus sidelining Iran and reducing Russia’s influence over the oil-rich region.

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