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Friday, December 19, 2003

Surprise at UK export credit agency's pipeline claims
Human rights + environment groups (including Corner House, Platform, Friends of the Earth + the Kurdish Human Rights Project) that have been investigating BP's highly controversial Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline have called the decision by the UK Government to provide $150 million in support for the project politically motivated. The project would see a 1,750 km oil pipeline being built through Turkey, Georgia + Azerbaijan.

The groups expressed surprise at the benefits the UK Government's Export Credits Guarantee Department claimed would come from the Baku project, given that many of the claims are contradicted by readily available evidence.

It includes claims that the pipeline "will serve to promote regional stability", despite the fact that in the past two months, there has been a revolution in one of the pipeline's host countries, Georgia; elections in Azerbaijan that have been called "fraudulent" by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe; and major bomb attacks Turkey.

Similarly the Government touts "the establishment of high quality operations to international standards", when a recent report from the Baku-Ceyhan Campaign identified no fewer than 173 violations of mandatory World Bank standards.

The UK Government's Export Credits Guarantee Department's claim that "significant temporary employment will be created" comes in the same week that workers building the pipeline in Georgia went on strike in protest at reportedly receivingless than 50 US cents a day.

Hannah Griffiths of Friends of the Earth said:

The UK Government shouldn't be using taxpayers' money to support projects that will further fuel climate change. We're bitterly disappointed that despite its so-called commitments to the environment, ECGD is still supporting unsustainable projects.

Anders Lustgarten of the Baku-Ceyhan Campaign said:

"It's clear the UK Government has decided to back the Baku project for the same reason everybody else has: massive political pressure from the US."

Greg Muttitt of Platform, one of the groups involved in the campaign, added:

We presented the Export Credits Guarantee Department with extensive research showing how the pipeline violates their own standards on numerous counts. It seems the standards don't count for much.

Kerim Yildiz, of the Kurdish Human Rights Project, another group in the campaign, said:

The ECGD maintains that the project complies with international human rights and environmental standards. This is clearly not the reality. The Kurdish Human Rights Project is in the process of submitting cases to the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of a large number of villagers, who state that their human rights have already been violated.

Nick Hildyard of the Corner House said:

The Government has recognised the project is not yet satisfactory and has set conditions before cover is made available. No money should be provided until the public has been able to comment on the conditions and on BP's fulfilment of them. Taxpayers must be satisfied that BP has addressed longstanding concerns over compensation and new allegations - admitted by BP - of faulty welding.