Almaty, 5 December 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Kazakhstan's oil and gas minister Nurlan Balgimbayev says his country definitely plans to start production from its offshore Caspian oil fields next year.
In an interview with Interfax-Kazakhstan, Balgimbayev is quoted as saying that suggestions that drilling would not start until 1998 are unfounded.
He did not give a date for the start-up, but he said members of the international consortium developing the field will soon sign a production-sharing agreement, and work will begin after that.
Members of the consortium are Agip, British Gas, British Petroleum, Statoil, Mobil and Total.
Oil and gas deposits under the Caspian are known to be vast, and have led to disagreements between the five littoral states on how they should be shared out. Kazakhstan's foreign minister Vyacheslav Gizzatov has said the lack of agreement between the five on the Caspian's status will not stop his country from developing minerals on its shelf.