Agenda of Russian president’s visit to Azerbaijan announced (UPDATE)

Agenda of Russian president’s visit to Azerbaijan announced (UPDATE)

EDITOR's NOTE: details were added after the fifth paragraph

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will discuss defining the Caspian Sea's new legal status, ecology, including the laying of trans-Caspian pipelines, and economic cooperation with his counterparts at the third summit of the Caspian littoral states in Baku on Nov. 18, Assistant to the Russian President Sergei Prikhodko said on the eve of Medvedev's visit to Azerbaijan.

"The upcoming meeting of the 'Caspian Five' is intended to give a significant impetus to the negotiations on key issues of regional cooperation," he said. "First of all, this means the new legal status of the Caspian Sea, establishing closer cooperation in spheres such as oil and gas exploration and hydrocarbon transportation, finance and investment, trade, transport, biological resources and environmental protection."

The first summit of Caspian littoral states' leaders was held in Ashgabat in April 2002. The second summit was held in Tehran in October 2007.

The Russian leader will launch his visit to Azerbaijan with a meeting with the country's President Ilham Aliyev. Later, he wil meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In addition, a private discussion with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev is expected to take place on the sidelines of the summit, RIA Novosti said.

The summit will start in the afternoon and last about three hours. As a result, documents will be signed and a joint statement of the heads of state will be made to the press. A working dinner of the presidents is also planned at the end of the program.

In addition to the Russian president, the Russian side will be represented at the summit by Prikhodko, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Natural Resources Minister Yuri Trutnev, Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko, head of the Russian Federal Agency for Fisheries Andrey Krainiy, and head of the Russian Border Guard Service Vladimir Pronichev.

The Kremlin noted that the summit agenda also includes discussing the current state of talks on the legal status of the Caspian Sea, and cooperation in economy, transport and communications.

"We mean, above all, fishery, navigation, water transport connections on the Caspian, Azov and Black Sea basins and the activity of organizations working to facilitate Caspian economic cooperation," he said. "We intend to actively seek to promote the Russian initiative to create a Caspian Economic Cooperation Organization."

At the same time, he stressed that the summit's main task is to develop a convention on the Caspian Sea's legal status, which will not be completed during this meeting.

In November 2003, the Caspian countries signed the Framework Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea.

In July 1998, Russia and Kazakhstan signed an agreement on the delimitation of the northern part of the Caspian Sea in order to exercise sovereign rights for subsoil use.

On Nov. 29, 2001 and Feb.2 7, 2003, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan signed an agreement on the delimitation of the Caspian Sea.

Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Russia signed an agreement on the delimitation of adjacent sections of the Caspian Sea on May 14, 2003.

According to Prikhodko, Russia has no problem with its nearest neighbors Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan regarding the status of the Caspian Sea. The countries have held a delimitation of the water area and successfully cooperate in the use of mineral resources and environmental protection.

"But we understand that our responsibilities must be laid out and they must cover the delimitation of the Caspian Sea, define the principles of military activity and military navigation in the Caspian Sea, the terms of laying trans-Caspian pipelines, transit shipments from the Caspian Sea," he said. "This is why the work is underway."

He added that several proposals will be discussed on determining the national maritime and fishing zones.

Regarding safety, Prikhodko said Russia does not see any potential military threat coming from the Caspian littoral countries.

"We think that the Caspian countries have the potential to provide a reliable security system on its own without third countries," he said.

The summit will likely determine the time and place of the next summit.

He called the protection of the Caspian's unique ecosphere and biosphere "urgent issues" on the agenda of the forthcoming summit.

The Kremlin spokesperson also noted that the final stage includes preparing protocols for the Framework Convention on the Caspian Sea's Marine Environmental Protection. It will contain rules of action and also put an end to the pollution of the sea.

"We need a strict balance between oil and gas production, on the one hand, and nature conservation and biodiversity, on the other hand," Prikhodko said.

He added that the work of a Caspian interdepartmental commission on water biological resources has not yet taken on an intensive character.

"A rapid approval of a draft agreement on bioresources is the main task for now," he said.

He stressed that laying trans-Caspian pipelines via the seabed also remains a sensitive issue.

"Any accident there, as well as on drilling platforms, will have consequences even more disastrous than those which recently took place in the Gulf of Mexico," Prikhodko said.

Iran generally opposes laying pipelines through the Caspian, as it may damage the ecology.

Earlier, Deputy Energy Minister Anatoly Yanovsky said Caspian countries will voice their toughest requirements yet for the project to lay the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline. The project envisages building the pipeline via the Caspian Sea to transport gas from Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan. The consent of all regional countries must be received to realize the project.

Work on the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline began in 1990s. The project was suspended in 2000 because the parties failed to agree on the terms of construction. Kazakhstan, one of the key potential suppliers of raw materials, stated in 2007 that it considers the project unpromising.

The legal status of the Caspian Sea, as well as the lack of the necessary volumes of gas to fill the gas pipeline are the problems of the project.

The Azerbaijani, Russian, Iranian, Kazakh and Turkmen presidents intend to adopt a joint statement and an agreement on security cooperation as a result of the summit. It will become a reference point for joint activity of departments and law enforcement agencies.

"This is a framework political document that lays out our joint responsibility in combating terrorist threats, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, drug trafficking, smuggling, poaching, and the illegal movement of people," Prikhodko said.

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