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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Dislikes Gazprom-Georgia Deal

TBILISI, Georgia -- A top U.S. official complained Friday that a deal between Georgia and Gazprom could affect pipeline projects linking Caspian Sea energy riches to the West.

Stephen Mann, U.S. presidential adviser on the Caspian region, said after talks with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze that the United States did not want the projects to be put at risk commercially.

"I hope that the Georgian government will not take any steps which can prevent the successful functioning of the Baku-Ceyhan and Shah-Deniz projects," he told reporters.

Mann was referring to a visit of Gazprom chief executive Alexei Miller to Georgia on May 28, when he reached an understanding on the signature of an energy cooperation agreement between Russia and Georgia in mid-June.

The Gazprom head in particular agreed on the creation of a joint enterprise to transport Russian gas to Armenia and Turkey through Georgia.

On Wednesday, a senior Russian diplomat urged Azerbaijan to export its natural gas to Turkey via Russia, instead of going ahead with the alternative pipeline being planned by an international consortium.

Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Kalyuzhny said gas from Azerbaijan's massive Shah Deniz field in the Caspian Sea could be pumped through the Blue Stream link, an undersea pipeline linking Russia and Turkey.

That pipeline, inaugurated only late last year, is now standing idle because Turkey has said it did not need the gas, leaving Gazprom, which built the link, with an expensive white elephant on its hands.

Kalyuzhny's remarks were an implicit attack on plans, led by oil majors BP and Statoil, to build a gas pipeline running from Baku, through neighboring Georgia, to the northern Turkish city of Erzurum.

That pipeline is expected to cost $3.2 billion. BP and its partners in the consortium gave their formal approval for the project earlier this year, despite doubts that Turkish demand was too weak to make it viable.

A separate U.S.-backed oil pipeline, being built at a cost of $2.9 billion, will pump up to 1 million barrels of crude per day from Azerbaijan through Georgia to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan.

Giya Chanturiya, the head of Georgia's state oil company, denied Friday that Tbilisi was wavering in its commitment to the two U.S.-backed pipelines.