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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russian Official Denies Objections to Baku-Ceyhan Pipeline

ALMATY, Kazakstan - A top Russian official tried to assure Kazakstan Wednesday that the Kremlin will not pressure the country on oil issues and denied Russia objects to a U.S.-backed pipeline project in the region.

The United States is eager to have Kazakstan ship its oil via a pipeline under development that would bypass Russia, running from Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, to Ceyhan, Turkey.

To reach the pipeline head at Baku, the Kazak oil would have to come either by tanker or by a pipeline under the Caspian.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Mohammad Khatami signed a statement in Moscow Monday opposing pipelines across the sea bed, a move seen by some observers as an effort to push Kazakstan to ship oil via Russia or Iran.

But Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Kalyuzhny said during a visit to Kazakstan on Wednesday that Russia's opposition only referred to pipelines that could endanger Caspian ecology.

"Russia has not been nor will be against any pipelines, including the Baku-Ceyhan project, if they are economically profitable," Kalyuzhny said.

"Russia will not try to keep anyone from entering the Baku-Ceyhan project," he told journalists after a meeting with Kazak Prime Minister Kasymzhomart Tokayev. Kalyuzhny added that reports of Russian objections "misinterpret Russia's position."

Another bitter dispute around Caspian oil involves the division of the sea's rich reserves between the five littoral nations - Russia, Iran, Kazakstan, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. The countries could not reach agreement for years, and the dispute has delayed the building of a major export pipeline.

Iran has rejected unilateral or bilateral agreements on use of the sea, including agreements signed between Russia and Kazakstan and recently with Azerbaijan clarifying the status of the Caspian Sea bed adjoining them. Under the accords, resources such as fish would be shared jointly.

Kalyuzhny said Wednesday that "significant disagreements" still remain, making a solution "relatively complicated."