Bilateral format discussed for Caspian Sea
Wednesday, November 28, 2001
A bilateral format is discussed to divide the Caspian
Interview conducted by Asya Gadzhizade. Nezavisimaya gazeta, Nov. 2, 2001, p. 5, as reported in
The Current Digest of the Post-Soviet Press, November 28, 2001.
The legal status of the Caspian Sea remains a topic of discussion for the five Caspian countries: Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iran. Viktor Kalyuzhny, the Russian president's special representative for Caspian affairs, discussed Moscow's current stance on dividing up the Caspian's resources in an interview with an NG reporter.
Question. -- How close are the positions of the five Caspian countries at this point?
Answer. -- As of today, Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan take similar positions on the basic issues involved in defining the Caspian's legal status. In the wake of the Turkmen president's visit to Kazakhstan, it could be said that the positions of four of the countries are now close. They agree that the Caspian's resources should be divided up along lines acceptable to the countries that are directly involved and that are adjacent to or opposite each other -- i.e., in a bilateral format. This means that each country that borders on another country could resolve the issue of dividing adjacent sectors of the Caspian seabed directly. The bilateral format would make it possible to arrive at a dividing arrangement without infringing on the interests of either of the two countries involved or of the other Caspian nations. We consider it incorrect to try to settle the matter only in a "comprehensive" format.
Q. -- Are you saying that Azerbaijan, for example, would come to agreements with Iran and Turkmenistan on its own, and that the other countries would not be involved?
A. -- We are saying that these countries should try to reach agreements on their own, and if they do arrive at a compromise it will be easier to move on from there. The most important thing is that each country reach a compromise with its neighbors on how to divide up the energy resources. The fact that the unifying principle should be to divide the seabed while leaving the water to be used in common is another matter. Dividing the seabed into sectors would represent a kind of technical division; what we would really be dividing is the energy resources. We don't care which interested countries divide up the resources; we can only help them in this process, without dictating terms under any circumstances. They themselves would decide how to divide these resources and on what terms. . . .
Q. -- Is the principle of sectoral division of the seabed still in place, or has it changed?
A. -- Various terms can be used -- sectors, zones -- but I wouldn't put the emphasis on that at this stage. The main principle is that there should be no borders in the Caspian. We're not dividing the sea or the water mass, we are demarcating the energy resources of the seabed.
Q. -- So each pair of countries would divide up the resources on a bilateral basis, and the others would accept that?
A. -- Exactly. For instance, if Azerbaijan were to reach an agreement with Iran that doesn't violate the water-in-common principle, meaning that no borders would be drawn through the water, then the other three countries should accept it. If, on the other hand, the two countries were to decide to divide up both the seabed and the water, that would be unacceptable.
Q. -- Do all five countries agree to the principle of using the water in common?
A. -- Almost all of them. Again, all this would be done in each case.
Q. -- Is there a specific methodology for dividing up the energy resources?
A. -- Of course. One method is division along a modified median line, which would be acceptable to Russia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. Another method would be latitudinal division, which is what Turkmenistan favors. The methodology for drawing dividing lines has to be discussed at the negotiating table. Each party should propose solutions, state its rationale and try to persuade its partners.
Q. -- In one interview you talked about the possibility of the Caspian states' having their own coastal zones.
A. -- Previous treaties provided for the existence of 10-mile fishing zones for the littoral countries. Russia has no objection to coastal zones for purposes of border control and environmental protection, nor would it oppose a certain expansion of fishing zones. But all this would have to be negotiated. Russia is prepared to consider these options.
Q. -- Russia and the other countries have always said the Caspian should be a sea of peace. How likely is this given the serious disputes involving Iran, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan?
A. -- Yes, the Caspian can and should be a sea of peace. That's why we need to resolve its legal status as quickly as possible. All the countries have an interest in a speedy resolution because they all want to do work in the Caspian.
Q. -- As you see it, would the littoral countries be able to have naval fleets in their zones?
A. -- That would not be prohibited. After the Soviet Union broke up, Russia inherited the Caspian Flotilla. As long as there's terrorism, as long as the situation in the Caucasus remains tense, the Caspian Flotilla serves as a guarantor of stability, which is in the interests of all the Caspian countries. Iran has certain naval forces, as do other countries. What we need to avoid is the temptation to build up these forces.