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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kazakhstan Seeks Greek Pipe Stake

BAKU, Azerbaijan -- Kazakhstan wants a stake in a key Russian-controlled oil pipeline that bypasses Turkey's busy Bosporus in a move that would allow the Central Asian nation more access to European markets, the Kazakh energy minister said Wednesday.

Speaking during a visit to Azerbaijan -- another oil and gas-rich ex-Soviet republic -- Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Baktykozha Izmukhambetov said the Kazakh government could start talks next month with Greece and Bulgaria after it finishes consultations with Russia on the deal.

"The tentative understanding is that we will get part of the 49 percent share of Greece and Bulgaria in the project," he said.

The 280-kilometer, $1.2 billion pipeline runs from Bulgaria's Black Sea port of Burgas to Alexandroupolis, in northern Greece. Three state-owned Russian firms control 51 percent in the venture, leaving EU members Bulgaria and Greece with 24.5 percent each.

By taking a stake in the pipeline, Kazakhstan will be able to further increase crude exports, shipping to world markets via the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiisk.

Izmukhambetov also said Kazakhstan, which is increasing production at its Tengiz offshore fields, wanted to speed up talks to expand the Caspian Pipeline Consortium project running along the Caspian's north to Novorossiisk.

Russia and Kazakhstan have long been at loggerheads over plans to double the pipeline's capacity to 1.34 million barrels per day. The expansion is vital for Kazakhstan to increase its oil exports to some 3 million barrels per day in the next decade.