Caspian pipelines meet in Kazakhstan

Agency WPS
What the Papers Say Part A (Russia)
August 10, 2007 Friday

Nursultan Nazarbayev and Ilkham Aliyev divide interests

by Arkady Dubnov

Kazkhstan busy with gas pipeline negotiations; A cooperation
memorandum for the Trans-Caspian Pipeline project was among the
bilateral documents signed during Azeri President Ilham Aliyev’s
two-day visit to Kazakhstan. The TCP project is supported by the USA
and the European Union. Naturally, Moscow disapproves of it.

Both of Kazakhstan’s capital cities – Almaty and Astana – have become
centers for preparations and decision-making in relation to new
transport projects within the East-West corridor. Talks under way in
Almaty are aimed at preparing agreements on building a gas pipeline
along the Caspian coast and reconstructing the gas transport system
between Central Asia and Russia. Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan
are supposed to sign these agreements by September 1; this was
decided at a trilateral heads of state meeting. According to Turkmen
official media, some experts from Uzbekistan are attending the Almaty
talks, along with specialists from Russia, Turkmenistan, and

In Astana, Kazakhstan’s new capital, a cooperation memorandum for the
Trans-Caspian Pipeline (TCP) project was among the bilateral
documents signed during Azeri President Ilham Aliyev’s two-day visit
to Kazakhstan. The TCP project is supported by the USA and the
European Union; it involves laying a pipeline across the Caspian Sea
floor to deliver gas from Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan to Europe
across Azerbaijan and Georgia, bypassing Russia. Naturally, Moscow
disapproves of the TCP project. After the trilateral agreements were
signed on May 12, President Gurbanguly Berdymuhammedov of
Turkmenistan announced that the Caspian coast pipeline agreements
don’t mean that Ashgabat is no longer interested in the TCP. In late
June, Berdymuhammedov also assured a visiting US State Department
official that he still supports this project.

The memorandum signed by Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan in Astana on
August 7 is further evidence that writing off the TCP project would
be premature – although some analysts came to that conclusion after
the three heads of state met on May 12. On the other hand, according
to a high-ranking source in Kazakhstan, "this memorandum is nothing
more than a declaration of intent so far." And it was only signed
because two important and controversial points were deleted at the
last moment.

As Ilkham Aliyev said in Astana, "Azerbaijan is prepared to make
every effort to ensure free, unhindered access for energy and cargo
transport" from Kazakhstan. And President Nursultan Nazarbayev of
Kazakhstan emphasized: "We are very interested in Azerbaijan as
transit territory – as agreed earlier, we are involved in the
Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) project, and we shall participate in gas
projects and a rail link across Azerbaijan and Georgia to the Black

Note the words "as agreed earlier": Nazarbayev reminding Aliyev of
Kazakhstan’s participation in the BTC. According to an Astana source,
this could hardly be a casual reference, since those agreements are
now in question. Firstly, Astana and Baku still haven’t reached
agreement on acceptable tariffs for transporting Kazakhstan’s oil via
the BTC. Secondly, Baku recently started saying that Azerbaijan would
have enough oil of its own to fill the BTC pipeline; this would
deprive Kazakhstan of any prospect of full-scale participation in the
BTC. At present, Kazakhstan’s oil is transported by tanker from Aktau
to Baku, in volumes too small to be taken seriously.

A source close to the Azeri-Kazakh negotiations told us: "The guests
from Baku invited us to participate in a transport corridor across
Azerbaijan. We replied that we are prepared to do so, if they offer
us good terms." For example, President Nazarbayev noted that
Kazakhstan "is interested in expanding transport infrastructure at
sea ports around the Caspian."

According to our sources, Astana is concerned about Baku’s
protectionism with regard to its Caspian shipping – to the detriment
of Kazakhstan’s shipping. Nazarbayev has even proposed a bilateral
agreement on Caspian shipping. Reportedly, Aliyev promised to think
it over.

As for everything else, Nazarbayev said that "there are no problems
between Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan – neither economic nor political
problems." The two leaders are resolved to raise bilateral trade
turnover from $300 million to $1 billion "in the near future."
Nazarbayev said: "Kazakhstan is grateful to Azerbaijan for supporting
its application to chair the OSCE in 2009, and Kazakhstan supports
all of Azerbaijan’s international initiatives." Clearly, this applies
to Aliyev’s calls for the international community to condemn Armenia
as an aggressor state which continues to occupy Azeri territory.
However, Aliyev made no mention of Armenia during his visit to
Kazakhstan. It wouldn’t have been polite; after all, Kazakhstan is
regarded as a close ally of Armenia within the CIS Collective
Security Treaty Organization.

Source: Vremya Novostei, August 9, 2007, p. 5

Translated by Elena Leonova