Staying Afloat in Each Port of Caspian Region

By Mikhail Agadzhanyan

The Caspian tour of Putin, planned in the middle of August, is about regional subject-matter


Preparation of the tour of the President of Russia along pre-Caspian states has gone out of the frames of protocol routine. Iran has become the disturber having expressed its opinion on the visit of Vladimir Putin in the Islamic Republic.


> Caspian Region Map


The Head of Russia intends to visit the ports of his partners in the Caspian region. Baku, Turkmenbashi, Bandar-e Anzali (it is planned that together with Putin the capital of Azerbaijan shall be visited also by the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev) are considered as the points of the Caspian tour of Putin. But Teheran has its own vision of the issue. They suggested to extend the frames of the visit of Putin to Iran with the visit of the country’s capital and meeting with the Supreme and Spiritual Leader ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Judging by the comments of recognized Russian specialists in Iran, non-visiting by the Head of Russia of Iranian capital and “avoidance” of the meeting with the Rahbar is the same as an insult for Iran.


Additional complications within Russian-Iranian relations are not acceptable. Especially considering the current uncertainty in bilateral contacts, raised in autumn 2010 when Moscow decided to terminate the contract on air and missile defense systems C-300 with Teheran.


Rotation of power in Iran under the results of the last Presidential elections has given a nice opportunity to overcome recent misunderstandings.  Strangely, but good intention of Russia to compare notes on regional and bilateral issues has faced new contradictions.


The Caspian tour of Putin, planned in the middle of August, is about regional subject-matter. The fact of inauguration of the new President of Iran Hassan Rouhani in the very beginning of August logically suggests that the newly-elected President should rather himself visit foreign countries first than welcome high guests from the number of priority partners within international arena. This way they thought in Moscow, but, as we may with certainty note, the suggestions of Russian diplomats disagreed with the plans of the administration of Iran.


The meeting of Putin and Rouhani in the biggest Iranian port along the Caspian cost Bandar-e Anzali is important for Teheran at least considering its on-going confrontation with the West. However, this doesn’t at all mean that Iranian intend to “pray” and welcome any visit of a high guest as blessing. Moscow has its own interest to regulate the occurred complications with Teheran, first of all, about above specified termination of the C-300 contract. As known, Iranian sued the Russians in international arbitrage to gain recovery for the terminated contract. And they have all chances to win the case. Russian experts consider that one of the objectives of the visit of Putin in Iran is to settle the dispute, for example, with introducing the idea of supplying of air/missile defense systems Antey-2500 (modernized export variant of the military system С-300В).


Russian-Iranian complications do not promise to be easily resolved. Two natural partners in the Caspian region for the years of anti-Iranian sanctions of the West recently have discovered the points of approach. For example Syria. But the peculiarity of Iranian approach towards bilateral relations with big partners in the region does not tolerate simplification. Teheran has nursed grievance in relation to Moscow since autumn 2010 and great work should be done to neutralize it.


Russian authorities set definite objectives in the Caspian region pragmatism of which should have been underlined by the regional tour of the master of the Kremlin. It is preparation for the fourth Caspian Summit of the Heads of the States, planned for the second half this year. The Summit’s host shall be Russia. Three years have passed since the last forum in Baku. The decisions adopted in the capital of Azerbaijan have promoted the general agenda within several directions but have not made the breakthrough in the main subject-matter.


During the third Caspian Summit in Baku on November 18th, 2010 the Presidents signed the Cooperation Treaty in the sphere of security in the Caspian Sea, as well as a joint declaration. There the Heads of the states confirmed their firm intention to finalize their work under the Convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea, “which shall be the fundamental document, regulating the activity of Caspian states in the Caspian Sea”. Also they agreed to keep on working on a regular basis of the Special Working Group to develop the Convention of the legal status of the Caspian Sea at the level of Vice-Ministers of Foreign Affairs.


The Convention of the legal Status of the Caspian Sea has not been yet agreed and it is not well clear at which stage of development is this five-lateral legal document at the moment. We can suggest from some statements on Moscow last year which line about the adoption of the Convention shall be promoted by Russia as the Host of another Caspian Summit. This way in the issues of division of water area of the Caspian Sea, assurance of free navigation in this closed basin, in March 2012 the Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Grigoriy Karasin noted that within the talks on the new status of the Caspian Sea they observe various variants of delimitation of water area, but Moscow considers to preserve free navigation necessary.


The Russia has the task to make progress also within other directions of cooperation of Caspian states. The Caspian Tour of Putin can not ignore consultations with the partners on the issues of the establishment of the Caspian Economic Cooperation Organization and a military-political platform to maintain security in the Caspian region (joint operative union “Kasfor” under the example of the Black Sea military-marine group of operative interaction “Blackseafor”). In due time the both ideas were supported by Teheran. In August 2009 Russia and Iran held joint trainings in the area of Iranian port Bandar-e Anzali (more than 500 people, two detecting helicopters and 30 ships were involved in the trainings). This year the parties have revived the dialogue in the sphere of security in the Caspian Sea, having introduced into their regional schedules such initiatives, as exchange with friendly calling of military vessels at the partner ports.


Russia and Iran are mutually interested in development of relations in the Caspian region, but they have a bit different foreign political approaches. Moscow intends to focus on Caspian agenda without accompanying complications, connected with relations between Teheran and the West. On contrary, Iran strives to extend the list of issues to be discussed with Russia, often with the objective of finding complex solutions.


Any case, it’s not desirable for the right moment for intensification of Russian-Iranian relations to be lost because of “protocol” disagreements on the eve of the Caspian tour of the Head of Russia that is so important for the region.


Translated from politcom.ru