Kazakhstan in talks to join Russia-backed pipeline
BAKU. April 5. KAZINFORM. Oil-rich Kazakhstan has begun talks to buy a stake in a Russian-backed pipeline project to ship oil to southeastern Europe, Kazakh Energy Minister Baktykozha Izmukhambetov said Wednesday. "Kazakhstan is interested in the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline," Izmukhambetov said at a press conference in the Azerbaijani capital Baku. "The preliminary agreement is that Kazakhstan will participate in the project through the 49 percent share of Greece and Bulgaria." He said formal negotiations on Kazakh participation would begin this month. The Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline is planned as a Russian-controlled alternative to the US-backed Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which bypasses Russia to ship Caspian Sea oil to the West. Kazakhstan, an ex-Soviet Central Asian state with massive oil reserves, signed up to the BTC pipeline last year, saying it planned to ship 25 million tonnes of oil through it annually. Russia, Greece and Bulgaria signed an agreement in Athens on March 15 to build the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline at a cost of 900 million dollars (682 million euros). Oil will be transported by Russian tankers to the Black Sea Bulgarian port of Burgas, and the new pipeline will bring it to the Greek Aegean Sea port of Alexandroupolis. Construction is expected to begin next year. A Russian consortium of the Transneft, Rosneft and Gazprom energy companies will hold a 51-percent stake in the pipeline. Greek and Bulgarian companies will split the remaining 49 percent, Kazinform cites BakuToday.