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Putin calls for quick decision on Balkan pipeline

04 September 2006 [20:28] - TODAY.AZ
Russian President Vladimir Putin called Monday for an agreement on the construction of an oil pipeline in the Balkans to be signed as soon as possible.

The $1-billion project, which will run 280 kilometers (175 miles) from the Bulgarian Black Sea port of Burgas to Greece's Alexandroupolis, on the Aegean, will allow Russia to export oil through the Black Sea, bypassing the often crowded Bosporus Strait in Turkey.

Putin, after meeting with the Greek and Bulgarian leaderships, also urged them to make the most of the opportunity, rather continue discussions that have been under way since 1993.

"If we go on cooperating in this way, there will be no result," he told a news conference. "It will be a missed opportunity, in both the economic and political sense."

He drew a comparison with a project to install a pipeline from East Siberia to the Pacific Ocean.

"Two and a half months ago, work started to lay a pipeline to the Pacific Ocean from Siberia," he said. "We have already installed 250 kilometers [155 miles] of pipeline in two and a half months."

He added that other major energy projects, including the Blue Stream natural gas pipeline and the Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline, had been completed.

Putin said Russia did not wish to set any harsh conditions, and only wanted such project to be implemented.

"I want the people of our countries, including Bulgaria, to be informed about the essence of this project and about our agreements," Putin said. "Russia does not put forward any harsh conditions. We only want that such projects with our traditional partners be implemented."

Earlier Monday the prime minister of Greece said his country, Russia and Bulgaria agreed to sign an agreement on the construction of an ambitious oil pipeline, Burgas-Alexandroupolis, in 2006.

"The position of the three countries is that we have agreed to sign an agreement on the construction of the pipeline in 2006," Kostas Karamanlis said. "It is important for our people and our economies."

Russian companies may hold a controlling stake in an ambitious oil pipeline in the Balkans designed to bypass congested shipping lanes, the head of Russia's state-controlled oil company Rosneft said Monday.

"Russian companies, as companies that supply the pipeline with oil, may have a controlling stake," Rosneft boss Sergei Bogdanchikov said.

The project, which is expected to cost around $1 billion, will allow Russia to export oil through the Black Sea, bypassing the often crowded Bosporus Strait in Turkey. Initial throughput capacity will be 35 million metric tons annually (255 million bbl), before rising to 50 million metric tons (370 million bbl).

Bogdanchikov said the members of the pipeline building consortium were yet to be finalized, though he added that Rosneft, Gazprom Neft, a subsidiary of Russian energy giant Gazprom, Russian-British oil venture TNK-BP, which coordinates the project for the Russian side, and other companies, were interested in the project.

Bogdanchikov said he believed the pipeline could be commissioned in 2009-2010.

He said he did not know whether U.S. Chevron would participate in the project, and said oil producer LUKoil has not voiced its interest in the project.

Bogdanchikov said the pipeline project was extremely important to Russia, as the country needs additional export routes. "It is important that it will be implemented in cooperation with other countries, which will make our consumers confident regarding the reliability of supplies," he said.

He said Russian companies would invest about $1 billion into the project.

Bogdanchikov said the speeding up of the construction of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline is not linked to the commissioning of the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline, but linked to the demand for oil in the world.

The Samsun-Ceyhan project was proposed by Italy's Eni and its Turkish partner Calik Group. The prospective pipeline, whose length will be 700 km (435 miles), will go via Turkey, from the Black Sea port of Samsun, to the port of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean.

/RIA Novosti/


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