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Office of the Press Secretary
(Istanbul, Turkey)

For Immediate Release November 18, 1999


Ciragan Palace
Istanbul, Turkey

4:35 P.M. (L)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, President Demirel, Prime Minister Bondevik, and especially to the Presidents of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Georgia, for whom this day is especially meaningful.

Today is the culmination of a long effort and a new beginning. For centuries, the Caspian region has been critical to the crossroads of human events, but never more so than today. These agreements which were just signed are truly historic. They will advance the prosperity and security of a region critical to the future of the entire world.

What happens to these lands on the ancient silk road will have an impact on everything from the future of Russia to the security of Europe, to the relationship between the West and the Muslim world, to the strength of the global economy and the continued growth of the American economy.

As has already been said, the United States has worked intensively with all these countries on the Baku-Ceyhan and trans-Caspian pipelines. We have done so for four very good reasons.

First, wise energy development can strengthen the independence of the newly independent states around the Caspian, helping them to stand on their feet and shape their own destiny, and it can open a commercial and political bridge between Central Asia and the West. These have been priorities of my administration since my first day in the White House.

Second, the construction of these pipelines will prove how much more countries have to gain from economic and commercial bonds, rather than from political rivalries.

Third, the natural wealth of the Caspian will make our global energy supply more secure and more diversified. These pipelines will be an insurance policy for the entire world, helping to ensure that our energy resources pass through multiple routes, not a single choke point.

And finally -- and this is so important, President Demirel mentioned it earlier -- but through wise planning and modern technology, energy development can take place without undue risk to the environment. That means that the Bosphorus, the beautiful waterway that we are situated on today, the true lifeblood of this great nation of Turkey, will not be desecrated by oil spills because of these pipelines.

Since 1995, the United States has advocated the creation of multiple pipelines in the Caspian region to ensure energy producers have choices about how to get production to the international market. Several already are in place or under construction.

I want all of you to know that we will continue to support your efforts and our energy companies as they work with you. Our diplomats and energy experts will help to facilitate solutions that meet the needs of all the Caspian states in Turkey. Secretary Richardson's presence here today is evidence of our continuing commitment.

We understand that today represents just the beginning of the intensive commercial phase of this work. In the months ahead, our Export-Import Bank, Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and Trade and Development Agency, all will work with you on a commercial financing package.

Nearly 700 years ago, this part of the world was so rich in oil that a visitor to Baku described it as blazing like a fire all night. It has been many years since the people of this region had the freedom and security to realize their vast potential. Today they have the freedom, they have the security, and today their leaders have shown the vision that will enable this ancient crossroads once again to light the world and brighten all our futures.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

END 4:33 P.M. (L)




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