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UZBEKISTAN - The Trans-Caspian 'Corridor'.

The US government has provided $750,000 towards a study of crude oil and gas pipelines to be built under the Caspian Sea to link Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan with Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. From Baku, the pipelines would run overland to Turkey. The crude oil pipeline would end at Turkey's east Mediterranean terminal of Ceyhan. The gas pipeline would run overland from Turkey on to the European markets.

Washington has made it clear that the trans-Caspian system of pipelines, or what US officials call "corridor", should be adopted by all the countries concerned. The "corridor" idea was first discussed in June 1996 during President Karimov's visit to Washington and talks with both President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore.

The idea has since evolved as part of "the Great Game" of geo-political rivalries for influence over Central Asia and the Caspian between the US and Turkey on one side and Russia and Iran on the other side.

The positions of Iran and Russia have not been as identical as those of the US and Turkey, however. On July 6, 1998, then president Boris Yeltsin of Russia and his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev signed an agreement dividing the seabed resources of the northern Caspian between the two countries, where "another Kuwait" in terms of an oil reservoir is said to lie under the Kazakh sector and is called Kashagan. But the pact states that other issues such as pipelines or telephone cables will have to be governed by subsequent agreements.

Iran immediately rejected the Russian-Kazakh agreement and Turkmenistan criticised it. But the latter's position was ambivalent as Turkmenistan and Iran dispute some oil-rich areas in the south-east of the Caspian Sea.

(See background and relevant parts of the surveys of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan in the earlier parts of the current Vol. 55).

Co-ordination on the "corridor" scheme between Washington and Ankara is close. The US and Turkey have steadily expanded their influences across Central Asia, with the Turks now having a strong political and business presence in each of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Relations between Uzbekistan and Israel became close during the Labour government of Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated in November 1995. Ties continued to grow during the Labour government of Shimon Peres and the succeeding Likud government of Binyamin Netanyahu and the current the current "care-taker" government of Ehud Barak, head of the "Israel One" coalition of parties.

Uzbek President Karimov believes Israel and the powerful Jewish lobby in Washington can play a big role in getting the US to put its weight behind the proposed inclusion of Uzbekistan in the trans-Caspian "corridor" for oil and gas pipelines. Israel and Turkey have forged a strategic alliance blessed by the US but condemned by both Iran and Syria.
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Publication:APS Review Oil Market Trends
Date:Oct 2, 2000
Previous Article:UZBEKISTAN - Independent Export Pipelines.
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