February 26-27, in Moscow an international forum took place devoted to legal status of Caspian Sea. In the forum, representatives of five Caspian states took part: of Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenia and Iran. The main result of the meeting is that there are no results at all. The sides have not worked out any mutually acceptable solution of the issue. In Soviet times, Caspian Sea’s status was defined with certain agreements between the USSR and Iran. Of course, after the USSR’s break-up, necessity appeared to work out a new agreement about Caspian Sea’s status, that could take into account the new situation. Though, the issue could not be solved so fast. There are several variants of Caspian issue’s regulation. According to the first one, every interested side gets its share depending on the coastline’s length. Therefore, Kazakhstan gets the biggest share, the second biggest share belongs to Russia, afterwards go Iran, Turkmenia and Azerbaijan. The most active supporter of this solution are Turkmenia and (with some “though’s”) Iran. The reason is that with such division, these states get the richest oil and gas deposits. The rest of countries are certainly not satisfied with this variant. And first of all, Azerbaijan which loses in this case all its oil deposits in southern part of Caspian Sea. This is why, Baku cannot reach an agreement with leading oil companies, such as Exon or Shevron, that first are ready to launch working of the deposits, then refuse from it. This was the reason, why project of Baku-Jeikhan oil pipe line was stopped. However, Russia and Kazakhstan are also against the first variant, because it seriously damages the two countries’ economical interests. Moscow proposes its solution of the issue. The division should be carried out according to so-called middle line on the sea’s bottom. Actually, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan agree with this solution. All the more that after January negotiations, Russia supports Azerbaijan’s claims. And as usual, Americans want to participate in this solution. Special adviser of US Secretary of State on Caspian region diplomacy, Steven Mann, while appearing in Moscow conference, practically supported Azerbaijan. At the same time, the adviser said that the deposit could be exploited without Caspian issue’s solution. And it is understandable. The United States is interested in Baku-Jeikhan pipe line. Apropos, it must go through Georgian territory. Therefore expansion of US presence in Caucasian region is not connected with anti-terrorist fight in Pankisi gorge. And after all, should the US support Iran? In the nearest future, the interested sides will probably follow Steven Mann’s advise. At least, Rosneft oil company is ready to cooperate with KazakhOil company in exploiting one of Northern-Caspian deposits. Though, this way is pregnant with serious conflicts. Anyway, there have been some skirmishes between Azerbaijan and Iran connected with disputable deposits. And now it cannot be even predicted in what the case will result, if Baku decides to work out deposits in disputable districts. It could even come to an armed opposition. However, the latter possibility is the worst and it probably will be avoided. For the time being, the conference’s participants still keep different positions. This spring, in Ashkhbad a meeting of five Caspian states’ heads must be carried out. The sides intend to work out a mutually acceptable decision. Though if an agreement is not reached, the situation will be desperate.
Oleg Artyukov PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Vera Solovieva
Read the original in Russian: http://pravda.ru/main/2002/02/28/37672.html