In early April the United States is hosting a nearly week-long meeting in Key West, Florida, bringing together President Robert Kocharian of Armenia and President Heydar Aliev of Azerbaijan. This meeting is part of a continuing attempt to settle the conflict between the two countries over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. This region is an enclave in Azerbaijan settled by Armenians since the early nineteenth century, and from which the resident Azerbaijanis were chased during a war in the late 1980s.
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The opening, or at least the beginning of the filling, of the oil pipeline of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC), from the Tengiz field in northwest Kazakhstan to Novorossiisk on the Russian Black Sea coast, received deserved if extended—indeed sensational—publicity several weeks ago. The CPC line is, after all, the first new pipeline to be built from the Caspian region since the demise of the Soviet Union. The pumping of oil into the pipeline began belatedly, but it is now expected that the first tanker will be filled in Novorossiisk in June.
All the attention paid to western Kazakhstan makes it difficult for most observers to gain an understanding of the overall energy balance in Central Asia. For example, sight is often lost of Uzbekistan's regional role as an energy producer because of its two better-endowed neighbors, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. Yet as explained below, Turkmenistan does not really come into play although it is certainly a regional actor; rather, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are the main players on the scene. This article calls attention to overlooked aspects of the Central Asian energy balance, with special attention paid to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and the contrasts between them and the significance of those contrasts.
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Following meetings with Turkmenistan's President Saparmurad Niyazov in Ashgabat, Viktor Kaluzhnyi, President Vladimir Putin's special envoy on Caspian affairs, announced earlier this month that the five-way summit to define the Caspian Sea's legal status and the question of its division into national sectors, planned for early April (and postponed from early March at Iran's request), would take place in the middle of the current month. He was contradicted a few days later by an announcement from Putin's own office that the summit would be indefinitely postponed, which turned out to be the case.
Continue reading "Five States (Still) in Search of a Caspian Sea Legal Regime" »