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Caspian Sea Region

From Asia Times: Nov. 5, 2003
World Bank backs Caspian pipeline By John Berthelsen
"The World Bank has approved funding of the world's longest pipeline, through the Caspian region, which will have environmental, political and strategic implications well beyond the pipeline itself."
Over the bitter objections of international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the World Bank's private funding arm has okayed millions dollars of investment in a massive, controversial US$3.6 billion oilfield and pipeline development stretching across much of Central Asia. The investment by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) provides the impetus for a 1,760 kilometer pipeline, the world’s longest, snaking from Baku in Azerbaijan through Georgia to a new terminal at Ceyhan on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. It also includes funding for the Aeri-Chirag-Deepwater Gunashli Phase 1 oilfield. ... The pipeline, known as the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan project (BTC), has the potential to deliver a million barrels of crude a day to the Ceyhan terminal over the next 20 years, then to be shipped to global users via supertanker. ... The consortium building the pipeline, led by the British oil giant BP and including Italy’s Eni, Statoil of Norway, the US-based Unocal and France’s Total, is seeking around 70 percent of the total cost in loans. ... Ultimately, according to Berdzenishvili, the US envisaged the creation of a "grandiose communications highway" with oil and gas pipelines along the floor of the Caspian Sea by which Central Asian and Caspian oil and gas were to be transported to world markets. ... Construction has already begun on the Turkish portion of the pipelines.

From The BBC: Thursday, 27 November, 2003, 14:33 GMT
Shevardnadze says US betrayed him
Ousted Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze has accused the US of helping to remove him from power. Mr Shevardnadze said he could not understand why he had been abandoned after giving Washington full support in foreign policy, including on Iraq. His comments came as President George W Bush telephoned acting president Nino Burjanadze to say he was sending a delegation "to assess Georgia's needs". He said he wanted to help her democratic and free-market reforms. ...

From AP: Dec 5, 9:28 AM (ET)
Rumsfeld Offers U.S. Support for Georgia By ROBERT BURNS
TBILISI, Georgia (AP) - Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld pledged full U.S. support Friday for this former Soviet republic and said Russia is obliged to withdraw its troops as promised. Rumsfeld met with Georgia's interim leadership, including the acting president, Nino Burdzhanadze. He was the first member of President Bush's cabinet to come here since election protests forced Eduard Shevardnadze to resign the presidency last month. ... The Bush administration is concerned about what it sees as a growing effort by Russia to exert its influence in Georgia and elsewhere in the Caucasus and Central Asia. ...

At The World Socialist Web Site: 5 December 2003
Georgia’s “rose revolution”: a made-in-America coup
By Barry Grey and Vladimir Volkov
Oil intrigue and US Realpolitik heighten tensions in the Caucasus

Comment at The Guardian: Saturday December 6, 2003
A very Georgian coup By Charlotte Keatley
The people are the biggest losers in the 'democratic revolution'

From The Washington Post: Saturday, December 6, 2003; Page A13
Georgia Asks Rumsfeld for Aid By Bradley Graham, Washington Post Staff Writer
TBILISI, Georgia, Dec. 5 -- Georgia's new leaders appealed to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Friday for U.S. financial aid to help pay the salaries of the country's military, which played a critical role in the peaceful overthrow last month of Eduard Shevardnadze. ... Georgia is strategically important to the United States, both to balance Russian influence in this volatile region and as the location of a planned oil pipeline from the Caspian Sea to Turkey and Mediterranean ports. ...

From Monday, December 08, 2003
Iran decries foreign military presence in Caspian
IRANMANIA, Dec 7 -- According to Iran's State News Agency (IRNA) the Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi condemned presence of extraterritorial forces in the Caspian Sea and stressed that the security of the region should be provided by the littoral states themselves. ... As to the visit to the region by the US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Asefi said the visit is in line with the US warmongering policy. ...

At Tuesday, December 09, 2003
Foreign forces threatening "Caspian region"
TEHRAN, Dec 8, (Mehr News Agency) — Iran's Special Envoy on Caspian Sea Affairs Mahdi Safari said that foreign forces are seeking their political goals in the Caspian region. "This issue can threaten the process of confidence-building among littoral states," he added. Safari in an interview with the Mehr News Agency highlighted the decisions made by the Republic of Azerbaijan on militarizing the Caspian Sea with the cooperation of the U.S. and the formation of a rapid reaction force by Russia. ...

From The Seattle Times: Monday, January 05, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
Exit polls say Saakashvili is winner By Alex Friedrich, Knight Ridder Newspapers
TBILISI, Georgia — Mikhail Saakashvili appeared to have dominated Georgia's presidential election yesterday with his promise to clean up corruption in his country and keep it oriented to the West. According to exit polls, the aggressive 36-year-old Tbilisi lawyer took 86 percent of the vote against five rivals. ... The overwhelming victory gives Saakashvili the mandate he needs to kick out the corrupt administration he inherited from Shevardnadze. It should also keep Georgia, a poor but strategic country in the Caucasus, in the U.S. camp. The United States has long been interested in Georgia as a regional democratic toehold. It also wants a stable country through which Western oil companies can route their oil pipelines.
"We have split forever from the past," Saakashvili told 1,500 supporters at a victory rally at the Georgian State Philharmonic Hall. ... Once one of the Soviet Union's richest republics, Georgia has fallen the furthest into poverty. Rampant corruption and bloody factionalism left it broke, splintered and pliable in the hands of Russia, its next-door neighbor. That was bad news for the United States, which is waging a low-key struggle with Russia for economic and political influence in Central Asia and the Caucasus. ...

From The Hindu: Sunday, Jan 11, 2004
Russia upstages U.S. in Caspian oil game By Vladimir Radyuhin
MOSCOW, JAN. 10. Russia has stolen a march on the United States in the race for control of Caspian oil, winning long-term commitment from Kazakhstan to use Russian pipelines for exporting its hydrocarbons to Europe. ... Kazakhstan, which produced 45 million tonnes of oil last year, pumped 32 million tonnes for export through the pipelines of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium running from northern Caspian across Russia to the Black Sea port of Novorossiisk. The Kazakh leader said the piping of Kazakh oil via the CPC line could be increased to 48 million tonnes. CPC pipeline is the main rival of the U.S.-supported Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline being built from Azerbaijan across Georgia to Turkey. Azerbaijan's oil reserves, however, are insufficient to fill the BTC pipe when it becomes operational in 2005, and the U.S. has been lobbying Kazakhstan, which plans to triple its oil output, to channel its main oil exports through BTC. The agreements reached by Mr. Putin in Astana dealt a blow to Washington's hopes. "Russia and Kazakhstan are drafting a long-term programme for the transit of Kazakh oil across Russia till the year 2020," the Russian Deputy Premier for Energy, Viktor Khristenko, told reporters after Mr. Putin's talks with the Kazakh leadership. ... On the sidelines of Mr. Putin's visit the Russian oil major Lukoil signed an accord for the investment of $3 billions into joint development of Kazakhstan's oil and gas fields in northern Caspian.

From The BBC: Sunday, 18 January, 2004, 02:28 GMT
US military will stay in Georgia By Natalia Antelava In Tbilisi, Georgia
US officials have said that their military presence in Georgia will now become permanent. The American military has been training and equipping the Georgian army since the spring of 2002. ... On Saturday the US ambassador to Georgia said they had decided to continue training the Georgian army in a full-time programme. During the Soviet era, Krtsanisi military base outside Tbilisi was home to the Red Army. Now it is US soldiers who are in charge and, according to the US Ambassador in Tbilisi Richard Miles, they are in Georgia to stay. ... Georgia's President-elect, Mikhail Saakashvili, says the removal of the Russian troops will be high on his government's priority list. The US, whose own stakes in the Caucasus include a multi-billion dollar Caspian oil pipeline, backs this demand. ...

At Reuters: Wed Feb 25, 2004 07:38 AM ET
U.S. Pledges to Help Kazakhs in Caspian Security By Charles Aldinger
From AFP at SpaceWar: Feb 25, 2004
Rumsfeld, Kazakh government hold talk on protecting Caspian oil fields
ASTANA (AFP) US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld held talks with the government here Wednesday on military cooperation aimed at helping Kazakhstan protect its vast Caspian Sea oil reserves. ...
From AP and Reuters at The Moscow Times: Thursday, Feb. 26, 2004. Page 5
U.S. to Help Kazakhstan Police Caspian
ASTANA, Kazakhstan -- U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld pledged on Wednesday to help Kazakhstan ensure security in the oil-rich Caspian Sea, an area of acute interest for Washington as it seeks to diversify its crude oil supplies. ... The states around the Caspian -- Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia -- have still not agreed on its exact delineation following the break-up of the Soviet Union, potentially causing strife over the mineral wealth below. As Rumsfeld arrived in Astana, the Kazakh government signed an agreement with a consortium of foreign oil firms, including U.S.-based ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips, on oil production in the Caspian. ...

From Reuters: Sun Mar 14, 2004 04:57 AM ET
Georgia Army on Alert After President Barred By Niko Mchedlishvili
TBILISI (Reuters) - Georgia put its armed forces on alert on Sunday after recently elected President Mikhail Saakashvili's convoy was barred from entering the restive region of Adzhara, a Georgian radio station said. The mounting tension, accompanied by a reported closure of the country's airspace, follows Saakashvili's stark warning to the region's leader to abide by national law or face action. ...
From Reuters: Sun Mar 14, 2004 05:44 AM ET
Russia Warns Georgia Not to Invade Adzhara
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's Foreign Ministry on Sunday warned Georgia against sending forces into its restive Adzhara region, Interfax news agency reported, as tension escalated in the Caucasus state. "There are grounds to think that Tbilisi is planning to use force. If there is a crisis, all responsibility will lie with the Georgian leadership," a Ministry official told Interfax. Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili had earlier put his country's armed forces on alert after he was denied entry to the Black Sea coastal region by forces loyal to the Adzhara leadership. ...
From AFP at SpaceWar: Mar 14, 2004
Georgia tense as conflict escalates with renegade region
From Reuters: Sun Mar 14, 2004 05:05 PM ET
Georgia Threatens Rebel Region with Blockade By Margarita Antidze
POTI, Georgia (Reuters) - Georgia's president put the military on alert on Sunday and threatened to impose an economic blockade on the Black Sea region of Adzhara unless its leaders allow him control of the troublesome province. Mikhail Saakashvili issued the warning to Adzhara after he was twice prevented from entering the Black Sea region. Russia, Georgia's giant northern neighbor and patron of Adzhara's leaders, warned him not to retaliate with force. Saakashvili warned Adzharan leader Aslan Abashidze his government would close Adzhara's airspace, block the oil port of Batumi and freeze accounts of companies linked to Adzharan leaders. "I told Abashidze that I would give him time until tomorrow (Monday) evening to allow me and other officials to move freely in Adzhara and to meet our people there," Saakashvili told a news briefing in the Black Sea port town of Poti. The stand-off over control of Azhara worsened already tense relations between Georgia and Russia, which still has a Soviet-era military base in the small Black Sea region, which is around the size of Luxembourg. ... Saakashvili's most serious threat was to block the port which ships around 200,000 barrels per day of oil and refined products from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan via Azerbaijan. ...

From Reuters: Tuesday, March 16, 2004 5:08 p.m. ET
Georgian Blockade Hits Rebel Region, Chokes Oil By Margarita Antidze
BATUMI, Georgia (Reuters) - A Georgian blockade to cut off its rebel Adzhara region began to hurt on Tuesday when the Black Sea port of Batumi said rail cargoes of oil had stopped reaching it and the region declared a night-time curfew. Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, seeking to bring pro-Moscow Adzhara under central control ahead of March 28 parliamentary elections, said on Monday he would cut off cargo routes to Batumi, but stepped back from threats of force. ... Saakashvili's land, sea and air blockade of Adzhara, twinned with measures to block bank accounts held by Adzharan leaders, is his first major test of strength since sweeping to power in a popular revolution last year that ousted Eduard Shevardnadze. ... Batumi port declared force majeure due to the blockade -- a public acknowledgement it was unable to fulfil contracts. The 200,000 barrel per day port stopped receiving oil cargoes by rail for shipment to the Mediterranean region. ... tanks training at a Russian base near Batumi raised the tension by firing shots into the sea where Georgia was patrolling its blockade, drawing criticism from Georgian officials. ...

From The Guardian: Monday March 22, 2004
Buoyant Georgian president charms Putin into u-turn by Ian Traynor
A Kremlin change in attitude was vital to taming a rebel provincial warlord in the run-up to elections
When the Georgian president confronted a rebel strongman who had run the Black Sea province of Adjara as a lucrative personal fiefdom for a dozen years, the rebel had one simple request. "Just swear you won't have me killed," Aslan Abashidze reportedly asked President Mikhail Saakashvili. It was a breakthrough moment for the new Georgian leader. After a tense stand-off fraught with the risk of violence that could have derailed his two-month-old presidency, Mr Saakashvili, 36, achieved a political coup against the wily rebel leader nearly twice his age. He imposed an economic blockade, then manoeuvred his way into the rebel strong hold at the second attempt. According to senior Georgian officials, the rebel patriarch caved in and issued the plea for his life. ... Mr Abashidze has agreed to allow an election next week, to disarm his private army and deliver taxes and duties to Tbilisi from the thriving oil terminal and port he controls. ...

From Aljazeera: Wednesday 05 May 2004, 18:35 Makka Time, 15:35 GMT
Georgia gives Ajaria deadline
Georgia's government gave Ajaria's rebel leader Aslan Abashidze three hours to avoid bloodshed, demanding he end his 14-year grip on power. ...

From Reuters: Wed May 5, 2004 11:59 AM ET
Georgia Steps Up Pressure on Rebel Region By Margarita Antidze
BATUMI, Georgia (Reuters) - Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili offered safe passage Wednesday to the leader of rebellious Adzhara region if he ended a confrontation with central authorities by resigning and leaving the country. ...

From Reuters AlertNet: 05 May 2004 23:29:32 GMT
Crowds celebrate in Georgian region as leader flees By Margarita Antidze
BATUMI, Georgia, May 6 (Reuters) - Celebrations erupted in Georgia's Adzhara region early on Thursday after its rebellious leader fled in what President Mikhail Saakashvili hailed as the first step to unifying the country. ...

From AFP: (06/05/2004)
After Adjara, Georgia sets sights on breakaway Abkhazia
MOSCOW (AFP) The new government in Georgia said that after succeeding in bringing the breakaway region of Adjara back under Tbilisi's control, it would now seek to bring another renegade region, Abkhazia, back into the fold. "It is clear Abkhazia is on the agenda," Georgian Foreign Minister Salome Zurabishvili told reporters in Moscow. ...

From The Guardian: Friday July 9, 2004
Georgia in face off with rebels
Georgia squared off with another of its separatist regions yesterday when three of its troops were injured in a checkpoint gun battle, and another 50 were seized by forces in South Ossetia. ...

From Russian News & Information Agency: 2004-07-20 15:36
BATUMI, July 20 (RIA Novosti) - Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said that he was ready to denounce agreements on South Ossetia. "If it is impossible to fly the Georgian flag in the Tskhinvali region[Tbilisi's official name for the former autonomous republic] under the existing agreements that were signed by Eduard Shevardnadze," Mr. Saakashvili said in an address to the Supreme Council of the Adjar autonomous republic, "I am ready to withdraw from them and denounce these agreements." ... "We have audio and video evidence as well as documents that Russian military intelligence agents are working in the Tskhinvali region," the president said. "More than that, we have evidence that Russian intelligence agents organized and conducted an operation to detain about 40 Georgian policemen. ... "

From July 24, 2004
US Offers Citizenship To 7000 Ahiska Muslims By Damir Ahmed
KRASNODAR, Russia, - The United States has agreed to grant citizenship to 7,000 Ahiska Muslims who will be settled in Pennsylvania, reported a Russian newspaper on Friday, July 23. ... Chingiz Neiman-zade, chairman of Vatan, a Meskheti Turks association based in Georgia, said the United States had offered to accept the Ahiska Muslims living in Krasnodar as immigrants. ... "The immigrants will be provided with housing and furniture, they will be helped to learn the English language and to complete formalities needed for residence in the US, which is especially important, and have been promised life-long welfare allowances for pensioners and the disabled." ...
Related article:

At Reuters: Thu Jul 29, 2004 07:08 PM ET
Georgians,Separatists Exchange Fire in South Ossetia By Niko Mchedlishvili

From AFP at SpaceWar: Aug 04, 2004
Russia and Georgia on war footing over breakaway Abkhazia
MOSCOW (AFP) - Russia and Georgia were on a war footing Wednesday after Moscow hinted it could resort to military action in response to a Tbilisi threat to open fire on vessels that "illegally" entered the waters of its breakaway region of Abkhazia. The Russian defense minister said Georgia's leaders were turning into "pirates" while the country's most popular Internet news site screamed in a headline that "Russian tourists will be shot" in Georgia. ... "I gave such an order a few months ago and I am repeating it today: all the ships will be sunk, we will fire on them... as happened in the waters of Abkhazia a few days ago," Saakashvili said Tuesday before leaving for a private visit to the United States. Georgian coast guards last Friday opened fire on a Turkish ship that entered the Black Sea waters of Abkhazia. Abkhazia's defense chief Vyacheslav Eshba said he would do "everything I can to make sure that the ships arrive safely. If need be, we will use our army for this," ITAR-TASS reported. ... The foreign ministry in Moscow described Saakashvili's comments as "unprecedented" and warning of a looming war. "These sort of comments are starting to show that Tbilisi is starting to lose contact with the reality in which the modern world lives," a ministry statement said. But Saakashvili seemed unbowed and took another stab at Moscow by saying that his order "affects all the so-called Russian tourists." ... Relations between Tbilisi and Moscow seemed to deteriorate steadily through Wednesday as a top Russian lawmaker came under fire while visiting another separatist pro-Moscow region -- South Ossetia. Andrei Kokoshin -- who once served as Russia's security council chief and heads a parliamentary committee on relations with former Soviet republic -- said he was in the region on a bridge-building mission and came under fire from Georgian troops. His dominant United Russia party said it may retaliate by adopting a resolution supporting South Ossetia's bid to become a part of Russia. During his US stay, which ends August 8, Saakashvili is scheduled to meet with several US officials including US Secretary of State Colin Powell and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

From AP at The Guardian: Friday August 20, 2004 9:46 PM
Russian Peacekeepers Move Into S. Ossetia
TBILISI, Georgia (AP) - Hoping to end persistent skirmishing, peacekeepers moved into areas near South Ossetia's capital to separate Georgian troops and fighters from the breakaway region, officials said Friday. ... On Thursday, Georgian government forces battled separatists for strategic areas near the capital Tskhinvali in some of the worst fighting since the war a decade ago that killed hundreds. ...

From AFP at the Australian Broadcasting Corp.: Tues, August 24, 2004 5:07pm(AEST)
Georgian President warns of war with Russia
Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has reportedly said war with Russia is close and it is necessary to prepare the people of Georgia for such an eventuality. "We are very close to a war (with Russia), the population must be prepared," he told the Liberation newspaper. ...

From AFP at SpaceWar: Aug 27, 2004
Georgia needs reserve troops, says leader Saakashvili
TBILISI (AFP) - Georgia will set up a training program for reserve troops to beef up its army in case of war or catastrophe, President Mikhail Saakashvili said late Thursday. ...

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