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Aliyev (right) and Lukashenka (left) face off at the negotiating table today (Turan) BAKU, May 2, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Ilham Aliyev, the president of oil-rich Azerbaijan, said today that Azerbaijani and Belarusian firms have begun consultations on future cooperation in the energy sphere

"Azerbaijan has already made the political decision about cooperation between [Azerbaijan and Belarus] in the field of energy, particularly in oil and gas operations," Aliyev said at a news conference in Baku following talks with Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

"Now it's up to the concerned structures and specialists to calculate the economic data of possible projects, their commercial aspect, and if they are mutually beneficial, we will certainly begin to work actively in that area," Aliyev added.

Belarus is seeking to reduce its energy dependence on Moscow. Aliyev and Lukashenka praised the growing economic and diplomatic ties between their countries.

Aliyev also said that Ukraine's "Odesa-Brody route is being discussed now as a future way to deliver oil to Europe. As you know, we have given our political support to this project, and the commercial aspects of this project are now being discussed."

During Lukashenka's visit, the two leaders signed a series of bilateral agreements.
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