Caspian Passions

By Elem Rustamov

The new round of Russian Government attention to the issue of the Caspian Sea legal status determination, specified by President Dmitry Medvedev during the recent meeting in Astrakhan, called a disruptive reaction among pre-Caspian states.

The peek of attempts of Russian diplomacy should be an informal summit of the Four, without Iran, planned preliminary on September 13th in Aktau city in Kazakhstan.

Informal communication of presidents should clarify the current state of the negotiation process, approximate the views of the Parties on urgent issues getting out of the communication of the authorized experts, contacting within the framework of the common working group. One of the key subject of the negotiations of the Four, except for the determination of the legal status of the Sea, will be the establishment of new economic structure – Caspian Economic Cooperation Organization (CACO).


> Caspian Sea Map


Naturally, none of the coastal countries refused of the Russian suggestion, but each has its view on when and how this structure can be founded. The position of Baku attracts special attention. Having established friendly relations with Russia Azerbaijan can’t shoot from the hip and refuse of Russian initiatives. Having agreed on the common sense, in the beginning of the year Baku has taken some time to think while Russia was reviving the CACO idea. The Head of the Department of International Relation at the Presidential Administration Novruz Mamedov perfectly described the reaction of Azerbaijani authorities. According to his words, one can speculate on CACO establishment only after the determination of Caspian Sea status.

For Baku, the issue of status is much more urgent than for Moscow or even Astana. Russia in this respect appeared to be in a privileged position – it managed to solve almost all status matters with neighbors – Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.

The subject of economic cooperation will definitely raise plenty of still unsolved issues, particularly, the issue of subsea pipelines.

Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan suggest that already existing bilateral agreements allow piping subsea energy arteries. However, Russia and Iran suppress harshly all the kind of ideas – piping can be performed only under the consent of the Five. The motive is clear – if oil or gas pipeline crosses Caspian Sea from eastern to western coast, then Moscow as well as Teheran will loose as there will occur an open way to Turkey and further to the European Union through Azerbaijan.

Russia doesn’t hide the desire to cover all gas transit from Caspian region depriving alternative pipelines as “Nabucco” of tresources. But Iran strives for the same – to capture all energy flows of the region. This is impeded by economic sanctions and defiant attitude of the USA, denying the cooperation with Iranian regime which is developing its own nuclear bomb as Washington considers.

> Nabucco Pipeline Map

However the experts err when thinking that Moscow has found a reliable partner in Iran. On this stage naturally, their interests coincide. But as soon as Caspian status is fixed, and it depicts all currently unsolved issues, Iran will become a harsh competitive of Russia, and first of all within a competition for the ways of main gas pipelines. The same result can occur without the agreement of the Five on status issues. Already today due to the absence of contracts of “Gazprom” with Turkmenistan, gas of this Central Asia country flows to Iran and a new network of the gas pipeline is under construction.
Alexander Rar The interview of Day.Az with an expert of German Foreign Policy Council Alexander Rar.

- Kazakhstan will welcome the meeting of Caspian states Leaders in Aktau city. During the meeting they plan to discuss the issue of Caspian Sea status. What results can we expect from this most likely unofficial meeting?

- I would say that today the situation is unresolved. The issue of Caspian Sea status has been discussed for 20 years and after the collapse of the Union several clear positions appeared. Earlier there were several ideas, today there are only two left – from the one side this is a position of Russia and Iran to share everything fairly between the five Caspian states, and water surely can’t be divided as it is an international property. Thus, Russia and Iran have a certain tool that able to suppress piping of any gas or oil lines through Caspian water area.

In general I don’t think that the situation can change significantly, as it will change already established 10 years old status-quo.
- Do you consider the consent of all Caspian states important during discussion of some projects connected with Caspian pipelines?

-  I think that international law demands the consent of all process participants, all countries that are directly connected with Caspian Sea and possess some territories of the sea itself. I think that without it the situation can’t be legally. International law should function, it exists, it should be exercised, people should agree on it.

Why is it impossible now? Because Russia and Iran don’t want for the western pipeline to be constructed as it will go round Russia and Iran and they will retard the process if complete opening of Caspian Sea for pipelines construction.

At the same time we can understand Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan – the countries striving to get out of the current isolation, and we should lay the pipelines through Caspian Sea to promote the independence from Russian transit ways. I think that this is a matter of extremely difficult negotiations, as everybody should keep patience.

I don’t think that Russia and Iran will make any concessions, so I think that we should wait and then proceed with negotiations. I don’t expect for the current status-quo will be changed.
Translated by Eurodialogue.org