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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

5 Leaders Study Pipeline Alternative

ReutersFrom left, Kiinov, Aliyev, Adamkus, Saakashvili and Yushchenko attending a summit on Friday in Krakow, Poland.
Leaders from five European and Caspian Sea nations agreed Saturday to work together on energy security issues and on a possible extension to Poland of a pipeline carrying Caspian oil.

Polish President Lech Kaczynski, who met in Krakow with his counterparts from Lithuania, Ukraine, Georgia and Azerbaijan to discuss ways of lessening Russian dominance in oil and gas supplies, declared the gathering a success.

"We have become much closer on the political level," he said.

The absence of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev -- who stayed in Central Asia for energy talks with President Vladimir Putin -- underlined the difficulties of bypassing Russia.

The five leaders agreed that their countries would form a working group to pursue issues of joint energy security.

They also called for a group to be set up to plan an extension of the Odessa-Brody pipeline through Ukraine to bring Caspian Sea oil to a refinery in Plock, Poland, and on to the Baltic Sea port of Gdansk, to be ready in about 2012.

Kaczynski said a follow-up meeting would be held in October in Vilnius, Lithuania -- hopefully with Turkmenistan in attendance.

Kazakhstan was represented at the conference in Poland by Lyazzat Kiinov, a special envoy of Nazarbayev's. He expressed interest in finding new ways of exporting the nation's natural resources.

"We have made a decision to take part in the pipeline project to Alexandroupolis [Greece]. We are now also thinking of taking part in Odessa-Brody-Gdansk," Kiinov said Friday.

Azeri President Ilham Aliyev threw his weight behind the Odessa-Brody-Gdansk project, which envisions reversing the flow of the pipeline. It currently brings Russian crude to the Black Sea.

"Today we give very strong political support for this project," Aliyev told reporters at the summit. "We want to play a bigger role in guaranteeing the energy security of Europe."

He added that technicians would need to analyze the project before he could give details on how much oil Azerbaijan could supply.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said Europe had "a vital interest in securing lasting, reliable alternatives" to a potential Russian "monopoly," and that ultimately this would benefit Russia.

"If Russia functions as a monopoly, then there are no incentives for them to make long-term investments and further develop their energy resources," he said. "Paradoxically, I think Russia will benefit the most from greater diversification and market-based competition."

In March, Nazarbayev urged Poland to include Russia in the pipeline despite Polish and Ukrainian interest in cutting their reliance on Russian energy.

The six countries at the summit agreed to establish a joint company to work on the pipeline.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko called Friday's meeting a breakthrough. "Dialogue has been going on for many years about Odessa-Brody-Gdansk," he said. "All it lacked was a serious political decision, which was made today."

Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus threatened to block a trade and energy treaty between the European Union and Russia if Moscow failed to restore oil supplies. Russia shut a pipeline supplying Lithuania in July after an accident.

AP, Reuters, Bloomberg