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BP reigns over Azeri gas, cables reveal

BAKU, Azerbaijan, Dec. 16 (UPI) -- British energy company BP holds most of the cards in Azerbaijan despite a diplomatic push to diversify the regional energy sector, leaked cables reveal.

Azerbaijan is situated to become Europe's answer to breaking the Russian stranglehold on the regional energy sector. U.S. diplomatic cables leaked to the Internet site WikiLeaks and given to London's Guardian newspaper indicate BP is making the decisions in Baku, however.

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Azeri Energy Minister Natiq Aliyev said, as depicted in a 2007 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Baku, that his country depends on BP "for much, if not most" of his country's natural gas production. Baku, he adds, is "ready and willing to cooperate" with the Europeans but the government can't do much without the energy company.

"We can't answer Europe without BP," he said.

In 2006, Aliyev expressed frustration with delays on the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and complained of problems with getting Azeri gas to Turkey.

Baku "can't punish (BP)," the minister said, a 2006 cable states, "BP provides gas production estimates to the government of Azerbaijan, but these aren't obligations, and BP can change them anytime."

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BP on its Web site for Azerbaijan operations describes the country as "a focal point of the global energy market and a gateway through which international investments reach the Caspian region and beyond."

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