Azerbaijan, Baku, March 12 / Trend T.Jafarov /
Trend interviews Iranian President's Special Representative for Caspian Sea Affairs, Deputy Foreign Minister Mehdi Safari.
Trend : Iranian officials said 70 percent of the issues related to the Caspian Sea's status have been resolved. In which areas have the sides reached agreements? In which areas do they have differences?
Safari: I will speak about the issues on which we share differences and on which agreements were reached. But I would not call them "differences." Maybe it would be correct to call them differences of opinion.
The percentage of questions related to the status of the Caspian Sea that have been addressed depends on the interests of each country. It is possible that, for Azerbaijan, this is 80 percent, for Kazakhstan - 75, for Russia - 80 and for Iran - 70. But there are differences of opinion - first and foremost on the issue of the division of the seabed and minerals.
There are various options for dividing the Caspian Sea - in equal parts, on the "cake" principle where the middle will be left and the rest will be divided, and on the "median line" principle on fair conditions, on the vibration method and in other ways. Some countries want the "median line" principle because their coastlines are longer and this section would be in their favor.
Some countries, including us, support division, but we want to make this division honest. The maritime law has its own definition of justice. The entire world knows and accepts this point. We stand to divide the Caspian Sea like, for example, the North Sea and Lake Geneva.
The second difference of opinion is the division of the water, surface and space above the water. Currently, the Caspian littoral countries are discussing the following issues - whether to share water space in a few sectors or in territorial waters, in economic zones and joint waters, or in economic zones and territorial waters, how they should be integrated, and how many miles the zones should cover.
The third question. What should be the military status of the Caspian Sea - should it be militarized or demilitarized. Each concept has its own definition in international law. The issue has reached the stage where it is possible that the Caspian Sea will be demilitarized, but its status should not be military. We can say that all the countries have agreed on this issue. The Caspian Forces (CASFOR) are one step taken in this area.
The next question on which there are differences of opinion is the placement of oil and gas pipelines on the seabed. Some countries agree with this and some oppose. Since the Caspian Sea is closed, in terms of ecology placing pipelines may lead to a catastrophe. Over 12 million people in Iran live on the Caspian Sea. Coastal and agriculture and tourism are sources of income for most of them. If the pollution of the sea increases directly, this will jeopardize the revenue of 12 million people in Iran and indirectly - 75 million people.
The northern region of Iran is called the "Iranian Switzerland" and is very valuable for the country. Russia has its own reasons to disagree with this point. But some countries agree with the placement of pipelines and want to transport their oil and gas resources this way.
The next question is the passage of vessels. Good results were achieved in the talks. The agreements were reached in fisheries, navigation, ecology, and other issues. We can say that this is a very good development, but it is necessary to be patient, as this is a long process. Countries are trying to get the maximum benefit for themselves and this is their right. So, they are holding discussions. But it is important that the organization of meetings by countries points to the fact that they are interested in bringing this matter to an end.
At present, the pace of the talks shows that these countries want to resolve differences peacefully on the principles of good neighborliness. It was expressed at the Summit of Caspian States/ That is, the differences should be resolved through negotiations. It will take 20 or 10 years. But nobody is choosing the way of conflict. This is one of the solutions confirmed at the summit of Caspian countries. It is being realized. Good results will be achieved.
Another issue is staying of non-Caspian countries on the Caspian Sea. The summit of presidents in Tehran confirmed that there can be only vessels under the flags of the Caspian countries on the Caspian Sea.
Q: Are there any changes in Iran's position on the status of the Caspian Sea?
A: No, our position has not changed. We have a positive and constructive attitude and continue to support this position. We stand for the position that we had earlier. But we have discussed these issues at meetings both in the bilateral and five-sided format. We are conducting bilateral negotiations to bring our positions closer. The agreement was reached at five-party meetings. We believe that any decision on the Caspian Sea must be five-sided. We do not accept bilateral and trilateral agreements. Every decision must be made by the five countries.
Q: Some European companies have ceased trading ties with Tehran due to international sanctions imposed on Iran. How do you assess these actions?
A: The Islamic Republic of Iran has always wanted to establish relations with everyone except the Zionist regime. Trade relations with European countries have a long history. Iran is ready to cooperate with them. We have never put restrictions on cooperation with them. Perhaps, they limit ties with Iran, but this ultimately harms them.
Four or five years ago, we had a turnover of 60 billion euro with European countries. Now this figure has dropped to 20 billion euro. But in this period, trade turnover with Asia increased from 40 billion to 120 billion euro. This shows that Iran is interested in expanding ties with all countries. If some countries do not want to cooperate with Iran, it is not a problem for Iran.
Iran seeks to establish ties with other countries. In this regard, Iran has achieved great results. There are more than 75 million people in the country. More than 40 million people are younger than 30. They have very broad human potential. This is a very important factor for the development. Today, the human factor is fundamental. We have no restrictions on cooperation with any country, especially European one.