A contract valued at about $125 million has been signed with a group including France’s Alcatel, the US AT&T and Italy’s Maristel for the laying of a fibre-optic cable connecting Black Sea countries with Italy. The contract was awarded by the telecommunications agencies of the countries involved: Italy, Turkey, the Ukraine and Russia.

The Italy-Turkey-Ukraine-Russia (ITUR) project is part of efforts to build a Black Sea economic zone, first propounded by former president Turgut Ozal in the late 1980s. Agreement in principle on the scheme was reached at the end of July by the participating countries, and commitments are expected to be tied up by November. Each country will finance its own section according to present plans.

The contract is due to be completed by March 1996, and the contracting group has started mobilising for the work, which will mostly comprise laying the cable by ship.

Bids are also being evaluated for a smaller project, KAFOS, to lay a fibre-optic cable connecting Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania. This will be organised and funded in a similar way to the ITUR scheme. The ventures which have submitted tenders for the $25 million-30 million scheme are AT&T, Maristel, Alcatel, Germany’s Siemens, and a Turkish grouping identified as HES.