Kazakhstan said Thursday it would step up work on a proposed pipeline project to Iran, which could deal a significant blow to US plans for a oil link to Turkey.
The construction of an export pipeline from western Kazakhstan to Iran "is hindered by the American politics of sanctions against Iran," a Kazakh foreign ministry statement said.
But Kazakhstan "considered it expedient to intensify work on the completion of a feasibility study of this project," the statement added.
The link to Iran "according to independent experts and leading international oil companies ... is the most economic and reliable," the statement continues.
The United States has lobbied intensively for a Baku-Ceyhan pipeline to take Kazakh oil from Azerbaijan to Turkey, bypassing both Iran and Russia and boosting Washington's clout in the region. But Kazakhstan has failed to make a firm commitment to the project.
On Wednesday, the foreign ministry said Kazakhstan was holding discussions with TotalFina, BG plc and Agip to conduct a feasibility study for the Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran link.
"This pipeline could create an economically profitable access to oil markets in the Asian and Pacific region through the Persian Gulf for oil producers working in Kazakhstan, particularly on the Caspian Sea shelf," that statement said.
Discussions with companies interested in participating in the project have centered around the division of stakes and capacity of the pipeline, the statement said.
Kazakhstan announced the discovery of oil on its sector of the Caspian sea this July in what is expected to be the largest deposit found for the last 30 years.
But the landlocked country lacks pipelines to export the energy wealth to hard currency markets.—AFP.
©--Agence France Presse.
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)