Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev and a Western-led sponsorship group signed an agreement here Tuesday on the construction of a key oil pipeline leading to the Turkish port Ceyhan.
The agreement was signed by Alieyv, the Azeri state SOCAR oil company and a group of Western investors, led by British Petroleum.
"By signing this agreement, we have opened a new era in the region," Aliyev said.
The pipeline, whose construction is heavily backed by the United States, would carry Azeri oil and natural gas through neighbouring Georgia to the Turkish port.
Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia signed a deal in the presence of US President Bill Clinton in November for a multi-billion dollar pipeline to carry Caspian oil to the West. Yet it must also be separately approved by each nation's government. Construction on the 2.4-billion-dollar project is due to begin next year.
The United States is opposed to pipelines from the Caspian going through Iran, claiming that Tehran supports international terrorism.
The Caspian Sea is believed to have the world's third richest reserves of hydrocarbons after the Gulf and Siberia, prompting a bitter rivalry among the five nations bordering it: Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan.
Iran has fallen several years behind with its neighbours on that front, and is against the building of the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline, arguing that it is not justified economically or politically.
The Western oil consortium will control 50 percent of the pipeline project.—AFP.
© Agence France Presse 2000
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )