Russia to 'Respect Commitments' on Oil to China
Author: John Ruwitch
But Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said work toward laying the 1,500-mile pipeline would be delayed several months to ensure it was environmentally and technically sound.
The project to pump oil from Siberia into China, whose appetite for energy has grown steadily with its booming, export-driven economy, is also threatened by a competing plan to route a pipeline to Japan, which Kasyanov did not mention.
"All the commitments of the Russian side on providing China's needs in oil and gas, we will continue to respect," Kasyanov told reporters after meeting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.
"We again stress the most logical way to provide China with oil is through the pipeline. So we will continue to study the issue of the oil pipeline from Russia to China," he said.
The pipeline, which would stretch from Russia's Angarsk, near Lake Baikal in Siberia, to China's Daqing has been hampered by environmental worries and the Japan pipeline plan preferred by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"I personally believe in order to better improve the basic technical plan and meet the environmental needs we still need three or four months of time. After this, we need to modify technical materials and submit it to environmental authorities," Kasyanov said.
"Can you say this is a postponement? Yes, you can," he said.
SUPPORT AND ENCOURAGEMENT
Russian oil major YUKOS and China's state-owned CNPC signed a deal in May to prepare for the Angarsk-Daqing pipeline. It would ship up to 700 million tonnes of oil between 2005 and 2030 with an estimated worth of $150 billion.
But the following month, Putin said he would prefer Russia to build a pipeline to the Pacific coast near Japan rather than the proposed link to China.
Import-dependent Japan, keen to become a major Russian oil buyer, has decided to provide Moscow with aid of up to 900 billion yen ($7.54 billion) to develop an oil field in Eastern Siberia.
Beijing sent a delegation to Moscow earlier this month to try to convince Russia to back the stalled Sino-Russian project, due to be constructed by 2005.
Kasyanov did not mention the pipeline that would serve Japan.
He said the vast majority of Russia's oil industry in its eastern fields was private and the government could only provide "support and encouragement to develop oil resources and export oil to certain destinations."
Chinese Premier Wen said he was confident the problems could be ironed out for the pipeline to go through, saying the research plans were "realistic and feasible" and were in the interests of both countries.
"As far as the problems on the Russian side are concerned, we fully believe from the overall situation, mutual benefit through close consultations, we can smoothly resolve the issues," he said.
China's official Xinhua news agency saw Wednesday's developments in a slightly more concrete light.
"The Russian government is to live up to its commitment and abide by the agreement reached on the construction project of the oil transmission pipeline between Russia and China," it quoted Kasyanov as saying.