TIRANA, Albania — With the price of crude oil having recently hit $70 a barrel and energy markets staying hungry, two trans-Balkan pipeline projects are competing to bring Caspian oil to the West. Russia, Greece and Bulgaria signed an agreement for the construction of a Bourgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline on Sept. 4, and a rival Albania-Macedonia-Bulgaria pipeline is on the drawing board. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, oil companies have devoted vast amounts of capital to developing the oil and gas reserves of the Caspian Sea region. The total oil reserve of the region, estimated at above 200 billion barrels, […]

A simmering conflict is threatening to start another war in Sudan. This time, it is as much about oil as it is ethnicity. Unequal distribution of oil revenues, bungled oil contracts, and differences in ethnic power sharing are creating new fault lines in an already divided country. The South Sudan Defense Front (SSDF), a former ally of the Khartoum government in its battle against the rebel Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), has threatened to attack SPLA positions once again. The group, formed by Riek Marchar, now vice president of the Government of South Sudan, or GOSS, complains that its people […]

The United States, the world’s largest oil consumer, is getting uneasy about its steadily increasing dependence on imported petroleum. A question increasingly being asked is whether the U.S. oil habit is sustainable any longer. Not only Democrats and conservationists have posed this question, but also neoconservative advocates and their Republican allies in Congress, who aim to weaken U.S. ties with Middle East petro-states such as Saudi Arabia. President George W. Bush has talked about the link between American oil consumption and national security. In his 2006 State of the Union address he said “America is addicted to oil, which is […]

With the death of a leading human rights activist in prison last week, Turkmenistan has left no doubt that the widely derided personality cult of the country’s President-for-life Saparmurat Niyazov and his iron-handed tactics are anything but a laughing matter. Family members identified the body of Ogulspur Muradova, who died only three weeks after being sentenced in a widely condemned trial. Authorities initially denied Muradova’s family access to the body while insisting they sign off on a death certificate. Access was granted only after the family sought out the help of foreign diplomats. After viewing the corpse, family members reported […]

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After the collapse of the Soviet empire, the Caspian states of Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan generated a great deal of excitement because of their oil and gas fields, about which little was known. Despite falling oil prices, uncertain reserve sizes and a non-existent legal framework, an extraordinary volume of international investment poured into the region in 1997 and 1998. By 1999, more than 20 oil exploration contracts were signed in Azerbaijan alone, representing more than $30 billion in long-term capital investment and some $2.5 billion in committed investment. It was widely expected that the poorly explored, but high-potential Caspian oil reserves […]

Although both China and Africa were home to two of the world’s oldest civilizations, each dating back more than 6,000 years, China has only recently discovered the true value of Africa. China’s initial forays on the continent, during the 1960s and 1970s, were driven by political ideology and thus inherently limited in scope and duration. Today, the basis of the Sino-African relationship has evolved from politics to economics. “China explicitly stated that they were going to shift their focus away from ideology in 1996,” says Christopher Alden, senior lecturer in international relations at the London School of Economics. A major […]