Yesterday, in Turkmenia capital, Ashkhabad, a summit of the leaders of five Caspian states (Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenia) was opened. The summit is devoted to only one question: sharing of the Caspian Sea. As is well known, the main question is how to share the sea. Everybody understands it should be shared, though it is too difficult to share the sea in a way which would satisfy every Caspian state. At the moment, the sea’s status is being determined with two Soviet-Iranian treaties of 1921 and of 1940. These two treaties foresaw thecommon use of the sea’s bottom and area of water. Of course, today the treaties are out of date. The Soviet Union ceased its existence 10 years ago, while the Caspian Sea is still not shared.
However, a cardinal progress hardly will be made in this summit. Discords are too serious. Moreover, among the Caspian states, there are already several groups that successively defend their interests. For example, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan persist on dividing the sea bottom according to the middle line and on common use of the area of water. While Iran is of the view that either everything must be common or nothing and proposes to split the Caspian Sea into five equal parts. Therefore, Teheran, which possesses now 13 percent of Caspian Sea will extend its territorial waters to 20 percent. Turkmenia has not sided with anybody. However, its neutrality will last only until it decides which position to support. On April 22, Saparmurat Niyazov met with Iranian President Mohammad Hatami. The details of the negotiations are kept secret, though the main subject probably was Caspian Sea. At least, Turkmenbashi never supported the proposition of Russia, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan, while benevolently listened to Iran’s arguments.
Uncertainty, the Caspian Sea’s status does not allow one to hope for the negotiations having resulting in anything. For example, Azerbaijan already openly hopes for the US’s assistance, but this cannot satisfy Iran and Russia. On the other hand, what could Iran and Russia do against US companies if they start work Caspian oil deposits which already belong or will belong to Azerbaijan?
Russia and Kazakhstan have already started to work an oil deposit in the northern part of the sea. Other countries will probably also work on some deposits, but this way is fraught with conflicts in the future.
One way or another, the issue of Caspian Sea should be solved and as soon as possible. Otherwise, “the sea of peace, friendship, and good-neighborly relations,” as Heidar Aliev called it, could turn into “the sea of enmity and discord.”
Oleg Artyukov PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Vera Solovieva
Read the original in Russian: http://www.pravda.ru/main/2002/04/23/40170.html