A statement by the State Department said the deal, reached last week between Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, "underscores the strategic importance of the pipeline and the East-West linkages it provides for the broad Caspian and Caucasus region."
Under the deal Kazakhstan will ship oil through the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which opened in May 2005 and allows the West to tap oil from the rich Caspian Sea fields.
The statement said the United States wishes "Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan well in their next round of negotiations that will protect the interests of governments and project investors alike, paving the way for commercial partnerships and prospective international financing."
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HOW MUCH OIL? The U.S. Energy Information Administration has estimated that the Caspian could hold between 17 billion and 33 billion barrels of proven oil. ("Proven reserves" are defined by energy experts to be 90 percent probable.) Other experts estimate the Caspian could hold "possible reserves" of up to 233 billion barrels of oil. ("Possible reserves" are considered to be 50 percent probable.) By comparison, Saudi Arabia has 261 billion barrels of oil and the United States 23 billion...(more)