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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow Lobbies Against Oil Deal

Russia on Monday lobbied Iran for support against a $7 billion oil agreement between Azerbaijan and a Western consortium on the eve of a five-country conference on the deal.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mahmud Vaezi met his Russian counterpart Albert Chernyshev in Moscow to discuss last month's agreement between Azerbaijan and a group of Western, Turkish, Saudi and Russian firms for exploitation of three fields under the Caspian Sea that are estimated to provide 5 billion barrels of oil.

On Tuesday, the two ministers will meet near Moscow delegates from the Caspian littoral states of Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan to discuss the deal a foreign ministry spokesman said.

Although Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin had assured Azerbaijan that Russia would not interfere in the deal, Russia's foreign ministry have expressed strong objections to the agreement.

Last week, Azerbaijan was rocked by an abortive rebellion that some diplomats have suggested may have been masterminded or aided by Russia in an effort to disrupt the oil deal. Interfax quoted a senior official at the Russian foreign ministry as saying that Mahmud and Chernyshev discussed the Azerbaijani oil deal at length.

"This agreement does not withstand criticism because it breaks Soviet-Iranian agreements of 1921 and 1940," Interfax quoted the official as saying.

"The organization of the Caspian Sea can only be changed after consideration by all interested sides. Any spontaneous action on this issue is inappropriate."

Russian foreign ministry officials have said that the other nations bordering the Caspian Sea should have been consulted because of potential ecological effecs on the whole region. But some analysts think that Russia's main concern is that the consortium will build a pipeline to Turkey, breaking Russia's monopoly over regional oil movements.

Alexander Vasilenko, a spokesman for Lukoil, the Russian member of the consortium, said the contract makes no mention of construction of a new pipeline and added in a telephone interview, "Why should we build a new pipeline when we already have one?

Other members have said earlier that they want to use the Russian pipeline because a pipeline to Turkey would have to lead through Iran. For Iran, on the other hand, that pipeline could be a major incentive to side with Azerbaijan on Tuesday.