Caspian's status not to be determined soon

Azerbaijan, Baku, Nov. 19 /Trend, V.Zhavoronkova/

The summit of Caspian littoral states held in Baku on Nov. 18 to some extent brought closer the positions of participating countries, but despite this, one should not expect a prompt decision on the legal status of the Caspian Sea as a result of the summit, experts say.

The next, third summit of Caspian littoral states - Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan was held in Baku on Nov. 18. The summit covered the issues of security, the division of the Caspian Sea, ecology, navigation.

The first summit of Caspian littoral states was held in 2002 in Ashgabat. The second time the heads of the Caspian "five" met only in 2007 in Tehran. Then the declaration was signed, in which participants identified common approaches to the development of a convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea.

The summit in Baku resulted in the adoption of a joint declaration by the heads of the five countries, in which they reaffirmed their intention to elaborate a convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea, the signing of an agreement on security cooperation and agreement of the annual holding of such meetings.

At the end of the summit, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said that the convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea may be signed in a year at a meeting of heads of Caspian states in Russia.

However, despite some progress achieved at the summit, experts doubt that the question of the legal status of the Caspian Sea can be resolved in such a short time.
"I believe that the outcome of the summit in Baku became a major rapprochement of the sides, but I do not share the optimism that the question of the legal status of the Caspian Sea can be resolved within a year," Azerbaijani political scientist Fikret Sadikhov told Trend.

According to a member of the Trend Expert Council Sadikhov, the summit to some extent surpassed expectations, as evidenced by an agreement reached by the sides.

However, the maritime delimitation is a fundamental and very complex problem, said the expert at British Chatham House Institute Yury Fedorov.

The question of defining the legal status of the Caspian Sea emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Until 1991 it was defined by agreements between littoral states - Iran and the Soviet Union.

According to Sadikhov, in order to resolve the matter within a year, there must be changed the criteria and approaches to the principle of division and the legal status, as in the current state of affairs, the division of the Caspian Sea among all nations amicably is impossible.

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.

"Such problems are not resolved promptly, and I do not see how they will be solved the next few years," Fedorov said in an interview with Deutsche Welle.

According to Russian expert on the Caspian Sea Stanislav Pritchin, there is no indication that the Baku summit gave solution to the existing territorial disputes, including between Iran and Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan.

However, despite that there is no progress in these matters, it is possible to observe that the overall atmosphere in the Caspian region has slightly changed, for example, the declaration signed in Iran in 2007 takes a particular meaning, he said.

"Signed in Baku the security agreement specifies exactly which agencies in each country are responsible for compliance with obligations under the declaration," Moscow State University researcher Pritchin told Trend by telephone from Moscow.

This suggests that the outcome of the summit as a whole can be assessed positively.

"The fact of discussing the painful topic on the "round table" gives some hope that the region will avoid direct military conflict between the Caspian states," Kazakh political scientist Dosym Satpayev told Trend, adding that the summits still did not stop the process of militarization of the Caspian Sea.
According to Sadikhov, such a meeting and convergence of views and positions on a number of serious problems convince that reaching agreement in the presence of concessions and compromises is quite real.

"I am confident that the agreements reached at the recent summit in Baku will create more confidence between the littoral states that will ultimately decide the legal status of the Caspian Sea," Sadikhov said.

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