- The Washington Times - Monday, January 17, 2000

Promoting a pipeline

American ambassadors to countries in the Caucasus and Caspian Sea region will take part in a major conference in Azerbaijan this week to promote plans for oil and gas pipelines to the West.
Reports in Azeri government newspapers said the two-day forum on Wednesday and Thursday will include Stanley T. Escudero, ambassador to Azerbaijan; Richard H. Jones, ambassador to Kazakhstan; Steven Mann, ambassador to Turkmenistan; Kenneth S. Yalowitz, ambassador to Georgia; and Mark R. Parris, ambassador to Turkey.
Mr. Escudero last week met Azeri President Heydar Aliyev to discuss plans for the meeting. The ambassador said John Wolf, a special U.S. envoy for the Caspian region, will also attend the conference, which will include about 50 other U.S. officials, the newspapers said.
The United States favors pipeline routes across the Caspian Sea to carry gas from Turkmenistan to Turkey. Washington also is supporting a plan to build a pipeline for Azeri crude oil across the Caucasus to Turkey's Mediterranean port of Ceyhan.
The U.S. Energy Department estimates the Caspian Sea area has proven oil reserves of as much as 32 billion barrels and 337 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves.
The conference follows an unusual tour of U.S. cities last year that included the five ambassadors and Michael Lemmon, ambassador to Armenia, and Joseph A. Presel, ambassador to Uzbekistan.

Supporting Croatia

With a new democratic government in Croatia, the United States is promising to help the country achieve the international respect it has sought since declaring independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.
"If the Croatian government makes the decisions we have requested for years, we must be ready to immediately show our support in many ways," U.S. Ambassador William Montgomery said over the weekend in an interview with the Croatian daily, Vecernji List.
Mr. Montgomery said Washington would back Croatia's bid to join NATO's Partnership for Peace and support financial aid from international lending institutions.
He said the United States expects the new government to encourage the return of Serbian refugees, to stop supporting Croatian separatists in Bosnia-Herzegovina and help apprehend suspected war criminals wanted by the U.N. war crimes tribunal.
On Friday, the court convicted five Bosnian Croats to prison terms ranging from six to 25 years for a 1993 massacre during the Bosnian-Herzegovina war.
Washington had been critical of Croatia during the presidency of the late Franjo Tudjman. The Clinton administration considered him an authoritarian leader bent on creating a "Greater Croatia."
The Croatian Democratic Union fell from power in parliamentary elections earlier this month after Mr. Tudjman's death in December.
A presidential election is scheduled for Jan. 24.

Mexican in New Mexico

Mexican Ambassador Jesus Reyes-Heroles promoted U.S.-Mexican trade last week on a visit to an international trade fair in New Mexico.
The ambassador noted that his country is now the United States' second-largest trading partner, after Canada.
He told the New Mexican International Trade Conference that bilateral trade soared to $210 billion last year as a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Before the trade pact, trade between the two countries was $88 billion in 1993.

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:
* Marzuki Darusman, attorney general of Indonesia. He holds a 2 p.m. news conference at the National Press Club.
* Rihards Piks, deputy chairman of Latvia's parliament. He will attend the Conservative Political Action Conference.
* Hahm Chaibong of Korea's Yonsei University and H. Kwasi Prempeh of Ghana's Center for Democracy and Development. They will participate in a panel discussion on the future of democracy with invited guests of the National Endowment for Democracy.

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