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Kazakhstan to supply Caspian oil pipeline

Kazakhstan has pledged to supply oil to a pipeline transporting Caspian crude oil to Western markets through Turkey's Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev said yesterday.

Speaking at a joint press conference with visiting Turkish President Abdullah Gül in Astana, Nazarbayev said the transfer of oil to the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline - which currently brings in crude oil from Azerbaijan's Caspian fields to Turkey's Ceyhan port via Georgia - will begin when Kazakhstan completes building ports on the shores of the Caspian Sea.

“Then, Kazakh oil will be transported to the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline via tankers,” he was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency. “We know that Azeri oil alone will not be enough to fill the pipeline. It will remain idle if no Kazakh oil is pumped in.”

The Kazakh president did not say how much oil his country is committed to transport through the BTC pipeline. Kazakhstan has reiterated that most of its oil exports will go through Russia, although it says this does not mean there will be no oil left to transport through the BTC. Critics say the BTC pipeline, launched in 2005, would lose its economic profitability if it is not supplied with oil from Kazakhstan.

The pipeline currently transports oil from the Caucasus region, President Gül said, and added that Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan were in consensus that Kazakh oil should also be pumped in. “Once the ports in the Caspian Sea are completed, Kazakh oil too will flow through the BTC,” he said.

The two presidents also discussed ways to boost business cooperation between the two countries during their talks. “We, as presidents, will open the way for cooperation for our businessmen and set the track for them to work together. On this track, they will move ahead and engage in joint ventures,” Gül said. “It will benefit both the Turkish and Kazakh nations.”

Gül's four-day visit to Kazakhstan came just days after his trip last week to another Central Asian country, Turkmenistan. “I believe the visit will be useful in shaping our common vision for the future, guided by past experiences,” Gül told reporters on Wednesday ahead of his flight from Ankara's Esenboğa Airport.

During Gül's visit, officials of the two countries also signed a long-term economic cooperation program. The cooperation program was signed by State Minister Mustafa Said Yazıcıoğlu, who is accompanying Gül on his visit, and Kazakhstan's economy minister, Bakhyt Sultanov. “Kazakhstan and Turkey are planning to increase commodity circulation volume to $10 billion,” Nazarbayev said during his negotiations with Gül, the Kazinform National Information Agency reported. “In the current year this index reached $1.5 billion. We have an opportunity to increase it to $10 billion by 2010,” Nazarbayev emphasized. Gül said, “The dynamic development of Kazakhstan has created a basis for the expansion of relations between Kazakhstan and Turkey.”

In addition to Yazıcıoğlu, Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül and Energy and Natural Resources Minister Hilmi Güler are among the large delegation accompanying Gül during his visit. Today Gül will attend ceremonies in Astana to mark the 16th anniversary of the country's independence. On Saturday, before wrapping up his visit, Gül will move on to Almaty, where he will visit facilities founded there by Turkish entrepreneurs.

Gül, who had displayed a close interest in Central Asian countries during his time at the helm of the Foreign Ministry, aims at strengthening ties with the Turkic-language-speaking states of the region via these visits. Late in September Nazarbayev became the first foreign head of state to be received by Gül since his election in late August as the 11th president of Turkey.
Turkey was the first country to recognize Kazakhstan's independence after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and the interest shown by the Turks has been robust and active over the past 16 years. Kazakhstan is an important economic partner of Turkey, and cooperation between the Turkish and Kazakh authorities has played a major role in the development of Kazakhstan. (Today's Zaman)