Political analyst: Roundtable talks on Caspian Sea necessary to avoid military conflicts
Kazakhstan, Astana, Nov. 18 / Trend A. Maratov /
Discussing problems on the Caspian Sea helps to avoid military conflict despite the continued militarization of the five littoral states, Kazakh political analyst Dosym Satpayev said today.
"Discussing urgent issues at roundtable events gives some hope for the region that it will be able to avoid direct military conflict between the Caspian countries," he told Trend, adding that the summits have not stopped the process of militarization of the Caspian Sea.
Baku will host the summit of the Caspian littoral countries, including Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan on Nov. 18.
The main issue to be addressed at the summit is the legal status of the Caspian Sea. Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan have resolved the issue. However, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Iran have not been able to agree on the boundary between their respective sectors of the sea.
There are traditionally more skeptics than optimists among experts. Those who attempt to "speed up" the process will be disappointed, as they will have to wait for a long time to come, he said.
"The issue of the legal status of the Caspian Sea is protracted," he said. "The Baku summit is unlikely to give a clear reference point as to this status will be determined on the basis of a consensus."
The question of determining the legal status of the Caspian Sea arose after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Earlier, the issue was defined by agreements between Iran and the Soviet Union.
The main issue is that, of the five littoral states, only Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan are making a serious bid to develop, produce and export Caspian hydrocarbon resources, he said.
There are large oil and gas deposits - about 5 billion tons and 8 trillion cubic meters, respectively - at the bottom of the Caspian Sea, he added.
The main task for Iran and Russia is to prevent third countries, primarily, the United States, Turkey, the EU and China, from entering the Caspian region, the expert said.
The first summit of the Caspian littoral countries was held in Ashgabat in 2002. The presidents of the Caspian "five" met for the second time in Tehran in 2007 and signed a declaration. The participants defined common approaches for developing a convention on the sea's legal status.
He also noted "some results" have been made in the negotiation process in the past eight years.
Russia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan signed bilateral agreements regulating the delimitation of the northern part of the sea. However, the issue of using its waters remains unresolved. In turn, Iran proposes dividing the sea into five equal parts - 20 percent to each coastal country. Azerbaijan opposes this initiative.
The issue of determining the coordinates of sea's median line also remains unresolved. The boundaries of Turkmenistan's and Azerbaijan's national sectors will be defined using this data.
Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan do not approve the "Iranian" variant of dividing the sea, as the amount of oil obtained by any coastal country and given to the so-called "common pot" would depend on the width of any given sector. Iran does not accept the principle of a "natural middle" because, in this case, Iran's share would amount to only 13.8 percent.
However, the expert added that Russia and Kazakhstan have demonstrated a sound model for resolving disputable fields - by developing them jointly. Only two things are required - pragmatism and political will, he said.
Besides the territorial issue, the sea's ecology will also be discussed during the summit, as its waters have been severely polluted due to the activity of oil companies.