Page last updated at 02:23 GMT, Thursday, 26 May 2005 03:23 UK

Press gauges pipeline's impact on region

Azeri oil industry
Baku's ever-extending oil skyline

There's a clash of views in Azerbaijan's newspapers over the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline. But both pro-government and opposition press agree it will make a huge impact on the post-Soviet republic's future.

Russian and Armenian papers see the pipeline as a bolster for US influence in the region and a sign of Russia's waning influence. Turkish papers agree, but look forward to the financial rewards.

The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which was once perceived as a myth, is no longer just a project, but a reality and a milestone for independent Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan's pro-government Markaz

[Former Azerbaijani President] Heydar Aliyev chose a successful oil strategy by opting for the BTC [Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline]. The pipeline was important not just because of its economic viability, but also because of its priority in Azerbaijan's foreign policy. This was an open message that the country will be integrated into Euro-Atlantic entities and this course will remain unchanged.

Azerbaijan's pro-government Olaylar

It is difficult to convince anyone that billions of oil dollars will reach the people of Azerbaijan with the current ruling bureaucracy in power and in conditions of corruption... The start of big oil exports from Azerbaijan has raised the issue of change to the country's political regime.

Azerbaijan's pro-opposition Mustaqil Qazet

The political games played by the authorities in the run-up to the opening of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline may seriously worry the biggest shareholder in the project, BP. The fact that the authorities have declared that the pipeline will be guarded not by NATO, but by weak, non-professional and corrupt domestic security agencies puts the operation of the pipeline under threat.

Azerbaijan's pro-opposition Yeni Musavat

It is forecast that the BTC will become the source of a threat to Azerbaijan because forces opposed to the project have already been in action. Such forces include Russia, Iran, Armenia and some of the Arab countries... Thus, the operation of the BTC, which is expected to bring Azerbaijan 50bn dollars in revenue over 20 years, is turning the country into a target for terrorists.

Azerbaijan's pro-opposition Bizim Yol

Baku says "no" to Russia, but "yes" to America... It seems any strengthening of Russian military force in Armenia is as unacceptable to Azerbaijan as it is to the West. But this year Baku intends to accommodate US servicemen on its territory.

Russian pro-government Rossiyskaya Gazeta, article by Vladimir Bogdanov

The USA is focusing on the Caspian in order to gain control of the oil in the region. It intends to achieve this aim through Azerbaijan... The very frequency of contacts between US administration representatives and Azerbaijan's leadership gives reason to believe that the USA has decided to gain access to the riches of the Caspian through the "gates of Baku".

However, it seems Baku has not yet taken a final decision as to whether to open them to the Pentagon or not... And the USA is clearly implying that there will be a "coloured revolution" if Baku does not meet American demands.

Russian Defence Ministry newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda

Even if the Americans manage to get the required volume of oil from Kazakhstan in 2008 (there are simply no such volumes in Azerbaijan), the oil that will go from Ceyhan to Europe will all the same be twice as expensive as Arab or Russian oil. Thus, Azerbaijan instead of becoming a trump card in the "economic war" will simply turn into an "economic excuse" for the USA to establish itself in the region.

This is a process which, under the pretext of "guarding the oil pipeline", may end in the deployment of NATO mobile forces in the region... Once the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline starts to operate, the USA will have achieved its purpose: the withdrawal of Russia from the region, i.e. it will settle an important geopolitical issue under the cover of an economic project.

Armenian newspaper Ayots Ashkar

When the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline functions with full capacity it will carry 1bn barrels. This pipeline is a part of the US administration's project to control Middle Eastern oil... Our part in this project is having the pipeline on our territory. Our benefit is the annual commission per barrel... an opportunity to receive 200m dollars on average a year.

Turkey's Milliyet, commentary by Gungor Uras

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaus abroad.

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