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A new pipeline in Azerbaijan transports Caspian oil to the West (file photo) (AFP) 21 February 2006 -- Russian President Vladimir Putin has started a two-day visit to Azerbaijan in what is being seen as an effort to forge closer ties with the oil-rich Caspian Sea nation.

The trip is Putin's second to Azerbaijan since he became president in 2000. Azerbaijan is the starting point for a newly completed U.S.-backed pipeline that transports Caspian oil to Western markets, bypassing Russia.


Putin said historic ties between the two ex-Soviet nations would help foster cooperation.


Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev noted a steady increase in bilateral trade that exceeded $1 billion last year.


Tomorrow, the two presidents are expected to meet and sign a series of bilateral agreements.


(compiled from agency reports)

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