On Russia-CIS oil&gas cooperation

Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko has briefed President Vladimir Putin on Russia's cooperation with Commonwealth of Independent States, CIS, member states in the oil and gas area.

Following the meeting with the head of state on Friday, Khristenko told reporters the year 2002 was "probably the luckiest and the most abundant in events relating to cooperation with CIS countries in the oil and gas sphere." He said the year "made it possible to fully put the essential statutory basis in place on all the current issues in cooperation with Ukraine in the natural gas sphere." He went on to say, "we have got all the concerns, all the lawsuits removed not only about the major consumers of Russian gas within the CIS, but also about the country that is the biggest transit country for Russian gas piped to Europe." The Deputy Prime Minister noted that Russia and Ukraine had moved into the second phase of cooperation in their joint investment operation involving gas transport system.

By now, a Russian-Ukrainian consortium has been registered for development and control of Ukraine's natural gas pipeline network, Khristenko said. A meeting of the Supervisory Board is being prepared, where the governments of both Russia and Ukraine will be represented.

Speaking about Russia's participation in the Belarus gas pipeline network, he announced that by April 1, stocktaking is to be completed there before "a form of joint structure is adopted which will control, own, and develop the gas transport system in the territory of that country." Speaking of Central Asia, Khristenko noted that each of the region's countries is "the owner of sufficiently serious own resources in the oil and gas sphere." He disclosed that in 2002 Russia reached a long-term deal with Kazakhstan on the transit of Kazakhstan oil via Russian territory into third-country markets. A 15-year agreement was signed.

No less significant is the cooperation on the Caspian Sea, he feels. "Settlement with Kazakhstan in 2002 of issues of resource use on the Caspian now gives us a strong resource basis for the oil sector," he pronounced.

He characterized the creation of a joint gas transport structure with Kazakhstan as "extremely topical." He added that similar work is continuing with Uzbekistan, but it is not yet complete.

Within 2003, Khristenko said, a multilateral format involving Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan may be reached in what has been dubbed 'gas alliance.' The alliance would enable both Russia and the two Central Asian states to pool their subsoil resources and transport capacity. That, Khristenko said, might provide the foundation for further progress toward "remote frontiers measured by thirty-forty-year periods."

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