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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Matthew Bryza - Europe needed to work more with Azerbaijan

30 October 2006 - Financial Times - Germany's big gas pipeline deal with Russia has been criticised by a US official, in a sign of Washington's mounting unease about Berlin's ties with Moscow. In at interview with Financial Times Deutschland, the FT's sister paper, Matthew Bryza, the US deputy assistant secretary of state for the Caucasus and southern Europe, indicated that the 5bn euros Baltic Sea pipeline would deepen Europe's dependence on Russian gas. "That project simply raises the question what diversification means when it comes to gas supply," Mr Bryza said. "If you live in Germany you do not want to go through what happened last winter with Ukraine [when Russia shut off the supply of gas]. I wonder as a US official how much diversification anybody can develop by having more pipelines into the same supplier." Relations between Russia and the United States are at one of their lowest ebbs since the Cold War, partly because of US support for the "colour revolutions" in the former Soviet states of Ukraine and Georgia. Washington is worried that Angela Merkel, German chancellor, is slipping from her intention to distance the German government more from Moscow than was the case under her predecessor, Gerhard Schroder. US diplomats add that European states failed to give sufficient backing for Georgia when tensions between Tbilisi and Moscow recently rose because of a spy scandal. In the interview, Mr Bryza cautioned Russia not to cut off gas to Ukraine again or to do the same to Georgia, which was denied gas for about two weeks last winter after mysterious explosions damaged a pipeline. Mr Bryza echoed concerns voiced by some EU officials that the Baltic pipeline weakened European solidarity in negotiating with Moscow, particularly since it bypasses Poland. German politicians maintain that the pipeline boosts the country's energy security by increasing the number of supply routes. In comments seemingly aimed at Russia's Gazprom, Mr Bryza said: "Very often the monopolist will work to cut a specific deal with an individual country . . . If that happens it's much harder for Europe to stand together." He said Europe needed to work more with the Caspian area, and in particular Azerbaijan, if its dependency on Russian gas were not to soar. He added that the US predicted that Russia would increase its share of Europe's gas market from 25 per cent today to 33 per cent within a decade, but that Azerbaijan could increase its exports to about a quarter of the Russian level. Financial Times

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