AZERI PRESIDENT PINS HOPES ON RUSSIA FOR OIL EXPORT ROUTES

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STRASBOURG, April 29 (RIA Novosti) - As co-chair of the OSCE Minsk group, Russia can do much for Karabakh settlement, said President Ilkham Aliev of Azerbaijan. He was addressing a news conference at the Palais de l'Europe in Strasbourg.

The President hopes for Russia to join hands with the USA and France, other Minsk group co-chairs, together to step up Karabakh conflict extinguishing efforts. Russia has an ample chance to gain prominence in the efforts thanks to its long-established friendly contacts with Azerbaijan and Armenia, the two contenders for Karabakh.

President Aliev shifts entire responsibility for the conflict on Armenia. As he emphatically said, "Azerbaijan will never recognise independence of the self-proclaimed Karabakh Republic, and will never tolerate it joining Armenia, either." He made a strong call to reinstate Azeri territorial integrity.

Azeri petroleum exports were another principal theme of the news conference. Their northern route, via Russia, needs much improvement. At present, an annual 2.5 million tonnes of Azeri oil is going abroad by the Baku-Novorossiisk mainline, and another six million by the Baku-Supsa. Both terminals are Russia's and Georgia's Black Sea ports, respectively. The figures the President quoted concerned only an Azeri government oil-drilling company, with no account for expatriate companies in Azerbaijan, he pointed out.

Another mainline is being laid from Baku to Ceyhan, Turkish terminal in the East Mediterranean. Azeri exports may amount to fifty million tonnes a year after the line is commissioned toward next year's end. "This does not mean we shall give up the Baku-Novorossiisk line-a route which has to be improved," said Mr. Aliev.

An Azeri-Russian ad hoc team is weighing up prospective improvements, he added.

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