Russia Wants Fair Oil Competition : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

May 17, 2000 - 09:30 PM

Russia Wants Fair Oil Competition, Official Says By Harry Dunphy Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP ) - Russia will be more assertive in the Caspian Sea basin and wants fair competition over pipelines that are being built or planned to transport growing volumes of oil from the region to markets in Europe, a senior official said Wednesday. Ambassador Andrei Urnov, head of the Russian Foreign Ministry's Caspian Working Group, said "certain outside forces are trying to weaken Russia's position in the Caspian Basin by driving a wedge" between Moscow and three nations in the region that were once part of the Soviet Union.

They are Turkmenistan, Kazakstan and Azerbaijan.

Urnov did not name the outside forces he said were involved but he clearly was alluding to the United States.

The Clinton administration has been promoting the building of a $2.4 billion, 1,080 mile pipeline running from Baku, on the western side of the Caspian through Georgia to the Turkish port on of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean.

U.S. officials want to prevent any Caspian pipelines from running south through Iran and keep Russia from dominating other routes. The Caspian is a California-size body of salt water that may sit on oil reserves of more than 100 billion barrels.

Urnov said under new President Vladimir Putin Russia "will resist attempts to reduce its role" in the region. "But there will be no Monroe Doctrine for the region, no dominating role, no confrontation," he told a forum at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies.

In 1823 President James Monroe told European nations to keep out of the American continents.

As a sign of Russia's increased interest in the Caspian, Urnov said Putin would make one of his first foreign trips as president to Turkmenistan next week.

Russia also has been pressing Kazakstan to ship the bulk of its oil through pipelines crossing Russia to its own ports on the Black Sea. It has offered to expand one of its pipelines to accommodate Kazak exports.

Urnov said Russia was not seeking a monopoly on transport of oil and gas resources from the Caspian and did not oppose a multiplicity of pipelines.

But he said existing pipelines that go north through Russia were underused and could be upgraded for less cost than building new lines.

Urnov also said Russia had completed a bypass pipeline to take oil from Baku around the breakaway republic of Chechnya where Russia forces have been fighting rebel groups.

He said Russia opposed building any pipelines under the Caspian until all environmental issues were settled, including any effect on the sea's sturgeon fish that produce caviar.

-- Martin Thompson (, May 17, 2000

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