Baku-Ceyhan Pipeline Gets Green Light from Georgia

Georgia has given the final approval for the US $3 billion pipeline that would carry oil from the Caspian Sea across its territory to the port of Ceyhan on the coast of Turkey. President Eduard Shevardnadze said he received assurances that the pipeline will not harm a pristine mountain gorge.

Shevardnadze said he had authorized construction of the Georgian segment of the 1,091-mile Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline after BP provided detailed safety guarantees. "If there emerges even a small potential threat to the environment, the layout will be quickly changed," Shevardnadze said.

Georgian environmentalists have opposed the pipeline, which would cross through Georgia's Borzhomi Gorge, home to famous natural springs. A Georgian environmental commission sent BP a list of 32 questions last month, asking how the company planned to protect the gorge. Shevardnadze said discussions continued through Sunday night but indicated that all Georgian concerns were addressed.

Shevardnadze brushed off complaints from his own Environmental Protection Minister, Nino Chkhobadze, saying as president he takes full responsibility for the decision to move forward with the pipeline. "I take moral responsibility for this decision for the current and future generations," Shevardnadze said. "Georgia doesn't have the right to miss the opportunity of laying the pipeline on its territory, since it will ensure both its energy and political security," Shevardnadze said. "It's a historic move for Georgia."