What will be the legal status of the Caspian Sea? This issue, which has a 20-year history, is close to find its solution. Foreign Ministers of “Caspian five” stated it after the meeting in Astana, Caspian Energy News (www.caspianenergy.net) reports with reference to Kazakhstani newspaper “Karavan” (http://m.caravan.kz/gazeta/kaspijjskaya-pyaterka-otrabotala-na-pyat-379525/).
Foreign Ministers have arrived in the capital of Kazakhstan to discuss disputable issues of the Convention about legal status of the Caspian Sea: Elmar Mammadyarov – Azerbaijan, Mohammad Javad Zarif – Iran, Sergei Lavrov – Russia and Rashid Meredov – Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers – Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan. A meeting of such format was hosted in Kazakhstan for the first time.
The parties discussed the inconsistent provisions of the draft of the Convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea, including procedures of setting baselines in order to determine outer limits of the territorial waters and fishing zones; right for peaceful passage of warships through the territorial waters; the right for free transit; right to lay subwater pipelines; creation of a body of the Caspian states to coordinate and supervise the activities in the Caspian Sea.
As Foreign Minister of Iran Javad Zarif emphasized, the convention must consider special geographic location of countries to reach fair results for parties.
– Iran stands for security, use of the sea for peaceful purposes, guarantee for non-use of military force in mutual relations, rejection of arm race and other aspects of. We believe that these are sufficient elements that will ensure peace and stability in the region”, – Zarif said.
At the press conference held after the Council of Foreign Ministers), Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan Erlan Idrisov said that countries of “Caspian five” are close to reach a final draft of the convention on the Caspian.
– Issues concerning the construction of lines along the seabed, navigation, transit and determination of procedures for seabed delimitation require an additional technical consideration. It involves certain technical aspects of procedures but not the principle itself. There are no doubts about the principle. It underlies such concepts as equality, justice, consideration of mutual benefits and interests, Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan noted.
The following meeting of experts will take place in September (Tehran) and October (Ashgabat). The date of conduction of the following meeting with participation of Foreign Ministers will be set after these meetings.
– Today we have confirmed on a political that there is a common mood and understanding to have the convention signed at the Astana summit of heads of states in the next year, - Erlan Idrisov stated.
RF Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also shares the same opinion.
– I find it absolutely real to have the corresponding convention signed in 2017. At the end of the meeting in Astana we had a breakthrough on a whole range of issues. In addition to the convention, we agreed to accelerate cooperation on fulfillment of already available sectoral agreements. An agreement on prevention and elimination of emergency situation has been in force. Mechanisms of handling natural and man-caused catastrophes in the Caspian are being developed. The necessity of fulfillment of agreements about preservation and rational use of bio-resources, agreements concerning security and concrete ideas on fight against poaching, - Lavrov said.
The Russian diplomat emphasized that parties discuss necessity of developing big sectoral agreements in the field of trade-economic cooperation and transport, as well as agreements which will help to prevent incidents with participation of warships in the Caspian.
– Measures of trust and transparency create a very good foundation for further promotion of remained issues, - RF Foreign Minister concluded.
Comment on the topic
Natalya Aliyeva, President and Editor-in-Chief of Caspian Energy International Media Group:
– Chances of reaching a consensus over the Convention of the legal status of the Caspian Sea at the Astana summit are high enough. There are a number of factors indicating that. Firstly, high intensity of meetings of special working groups held on the level of Deputy Ministers of Foreign Affairs to work out the Convention for the legal status of the Caspian Sea points out to the progress of the negotiations. Such meetings took place in Ashgabat, Baku and Moscow over the past few months. Negotiations within the framework of the intergovernmental commission for development of an engine of a moratorium on commercial fishing of sturgeons in the Caspian Sea, created in June by Kazakhstan President initiative, are underway as well.
Secondly, over the past 25 years such pressing issues (the project of construction of the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline, which was opposed by Russia - http://www.caspianenergy.net/ru/neft-i-qaz/33811-2016-05-11-13-49-33), and the existence of disputable fields basically in the south area of the Caspian Sea disturbed the establishment of the strategic bilateral relations between the Caspian countries neither during the sanctions, imposed on nuclear program of Iran, nor in current conditions of hard geopolitical and economic situation around Russia. It means these issues are no longer so pressing for the Caspian states.
Thirdly, the situation on global markets also promotes reaching of the consensus – low prices at the oil market and aspiration of the majority of the Caspian states towards development of the non oil sector of economy push them towards cooperation on close regional markets. Noteworthy are also possibilities of accessing new markets via transport lines China-Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran as well as under construction North-South corridor and Baku-Tbilisi-Kars-EU railway. These projects will certainly promote growth of competitiveness of economies of states involved in them.
Nowadays, upstream operations with a varying degree of intensity are currently running in all five sectors of the Caspian Sea. Besides, every state sets the dynamics, volume and intensity of this activity in accordance with national priorities and its role in GDP of the Caspian states.
For instance, the most active oil-gas development has been historically held in the Azeri sector of the Caspian Sea, the least active operations are currently running in the Iranian shelf since major fields of Iran are geologically and geographically based in the area of the Persian Gulf and onshore areas of the south-west part of the country.
To date, hundreds of km of subwater oil and gas pipelines have already been laid along the Caspian Sea bed from operating offshore fields. Oil-gas operations have been underway in the Azeri, Turkmen and Russian sectors since 1949, 2006 and 2010 respectively. Production and transportation of hydrocarbons from the well-known offshore Kashagan field of Kazakhstan will start in November of this year.
Certainly, the more intensive are upstream operations, the higher should be ecological standards and the more advanced should be technologies when conducting exploratory drilling and operating the fields. Given the geologically complex features of the Caspian fields and promising structures – deepwater areas, extremely high formation pressure in south-west part, presence of environmentally aggressive hydrogen sulfide and mercaptans in oil, specific shallow water in the north part of the Caspian, the matter of attraction of foreign investments and modern technologies is getting more topical.
Therefore, the breakthrough on the long-standing issue of the Caspian status will make it possible to substantially improve an investment climate of oil-gas performance in the Caspian and attract high technologies.