Washington, 24 October 1997 (RFE/RL) -- A U.S. Senator says the independence of the countries of the Caspian Sea region could well depend on the successful construction of East-West gas and oil pipelines through non-Russian and non-Iranian territory.
Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) made the statement yesterday at a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on American strategic and economic interests in the region.
Brownback says the best route for an East-West pipeline would be through Azerbaijan -- whether it be multiple pipelines or a major export pipeline to Turkey.
Brownback says if the U.S. takes no action and the pipelines are permitted to be routed through Iran, the countries of the Caspian Sea region would increasingly find themselves drawn into an eastern and southern sphere and would eventually become economic hostages to Iran.
Brownback introduced a seven-step plan which he says should guide U.S. policy in the region. Some of the steps include a serious examination and cost analysis of the Azerbaijan-Turkey pipeline route, increasing the U.S. role in conflict resolution in the region, and helping to create a favorable business climate by expanding American investments.