Today Russian President Vladimir Putin is going to discuss in Bishkek with Iranian President Hassan Rohani, the issues of cooperation in the Caspian Sea, including the preparation for the next Caspian summit to be held in Russia next year. Both leaders participate in the SCO summit.
"Items on the agenda are the development of regional cooperation in the South Caucasus and in the Caspian," said Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov. "Is also expected to discuss the legal status of the Caspian Sea, principles of cooperation on the sea and plans for the fourth Caspian summit," he added.
Meanwhile, yesterday Baku hosted a press conference following the results of the 33rd meeting of the Group on the development of the Caspian Sea legal status, where Russian President's special representative on the delimitation and demarcation of borders with CIS states, Igor Bratchikov said that there is progress in the harmonization of the Convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea. In turn, Deputy Foreign Minister Khalaf Khalafov noted that "most of the Convention has been agreed." But there are issues needing to be improved. There are different approaches to certain issues, disagreements. There need to be come compromises to enable us to come to a unanimous decision." "I think that in the package of documents of the forthcoming summit we can add several more decisions aimed at further development of friendship and cooperation in the Caspian," said the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, Kairat Sarybai.
The communique of the Group on the development of the Caspian Sea legal status emphasizes that the parties have agreed to hold at the next meeting an expert exchange of views on the methodology for the determination of basic demarcation lines and to submit the relevant cartographical schemes.
The current session of the working group can be considered as the basis for the next summit of the Caspian bordering states in Russia in 2014. Its period is to be agreed upon through diplomatic channels.
The Caspian Bordering Countries Cooperation Committee (Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan) and its Special Group have worked since 1992. The necessity to establish the Committee was caused by the fact that after the collapse of the Soviet Union the division of the Caspian Sea has long been and still remains the subject of unresolved controversy connected with the division of the Caspian shelf resources - oil and gas, and biological resources.
The Caspian Sea status negotiations have been going on for long between the Caspian bordering countries. Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan insist on the division of the Caspian Sea by the midline, Iran - on the division of the Caspian into five equal parts: one-fifth each of all the Caspian states. The current legal regime of the Caspian Sea was established by Soviet-Iranian treaties of 1921 and 1940. These treaties provide for freedom of navigation across the waters of the sea, freedom of fishing, with the exception of national fishing zones of ten miles and a ban on swimming in its waters of vessels flying the flag of non-Caspian states. Russia has signed an agreement with Kazakhstan on the delimitation of the seabed of the northern part of the Caspian Sea to exercise mineral rights. There is an agreement with Azerbaijan on the delimitation of adjacent sections of the northern part of the Caspian Sea. There is also a tripartite Russian-Azerbaijani-Kazakh agreement on the point of junction of the lines of demarcation of the Caspian Sea adjacent sections, within which the parties have the right to carry out exploration and extraction of mineral resources. Iran does not recognize these agreements referring to the treaties of 1921 and 1940.
The issue is complicated by the growing importance of Caspian oil and gas resources being of interest not only for the Caspian states, but also the European Union, the U.S. and China. According to the U.S. Department of Economic Affairs, the proved and partly explored oil and natural gas reserves in the Caspian reach 48 billion barrels and 8.2 trillion cubic meters, respectively, with 75% of the oil and 67% of the gas volume accounting for at offshore fields within 160 km of coastline. About 12% oil and 38% gas are accounted for Russia. In 2012, in the Caspian region, on the average 2.6 million barrels of oil per day were produced, representing about 3.4% of the world's black gold production. Future volume growth of hydrocarbons production in the Caspian will have mainly due to natural gas.
At the third Caspian Summit in 2010 in Baku, the presidents of the five countries signed an agreement on security cooperation in the Caspian Sea, which includes a very important clause that maritime safety is the prerogative of the Caspian bordering countries.
This May, Moscow hosted an international conference "The Caspian sub-region: threats to security and stability factors" on which the Director General of the Institute of Caspian Cooperation, Sergey Mikheyev said that an occasion for the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan could become for the Americans a pretext to create long-term bases, and consolidation in the region. And at first it will come to transshipment, and then they will say: "the region has proven to be volatile, it is necessary to keep the base and then expand it."
This conclusion is well grounded. This April, President Nazarbayaev said "Kazakhstan is ready to give NATO the Aqtau port act in the Caspian for the transit of goods from Afghanistan and back." Last year, Baku was visited by high-ranking delegations from Pentagon and the State Department to discuss aid in long-range radar control in Gabala, renounced by Russia. So far, Baku succeeds to convince its Western partners of its own ability to ensure safety for both raw materials export routes and the extracting capacities themselves in the offshore area. Aliyev has actually refused the Americans' proposal to deploy in Azerbaijan a military contingent to ensure safety of Azerbaijani Caspian oil fields and pipelines through which oil and gas are delivered to Western markets. This grouping also implied a naval component. The project has received the general name of 'Caspian Guard'. Experts from other countries point out that under a plausible pretext this project is overaccentuated by the U.S. with the ultimate aim to establish its control over the situation in the Caspian Sea.
Russia is aware that it is not possible to quickly prepare a document on delineation of powers among the littoral states, and therefore lays stress on the development of economic cooperation between them. Since 2008, Moscow has annually hosted the Caspian Energy Forum, since 2009 - the Caspian Innovation Forum, since 2010 - the Aqtau International Conference "Paradigms of international cooperation in the Caspian" (with the participation of the InfoRos News Agency) and since 2011 - the Economic Forum "Caspian Dialogue".
These forums are likely in the future to serve a creation of the Caspian Economic Cooperation Organization (CECO), by sample of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization (BSEC).
Russia's best practices are adopted in the West too. Thus, since 2007, Baku has hosted the Caspian Oil and Gas Trading and Transportation Conferences on the initiative of the British Confidence Capital Ltd and the Azerbaijan State Oil Academy. In 2011, it was attended by over 100 representatives of organizations and oil and gas companies from Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkmenistan, as well as Ukraine, Turkey, Romania, the Czech Republic, the EU, the U.S. and the Asia-Pacific region.
Despite the fact that the oil in the Caspian is extracted both by the Americans and the Europeans, by the Japanese and the Chinese, the West looks at the region as a field of competition with Russia, especially in the field of pipeline transportation.
"If the main pipelines in the region continue to come through the territory of Russia to the Russian terminals in Novorossiysk on the Black Sea, political consequences thereof will be evident without any open show of force from Russia. The region will remain in political dependence, and Moscow will then emerge in a strong position deciding how to share the wealth of the region. And conversely, if another pipeline is laid across the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan and further to the Mediterranean Sea via Turkey, and the other one will run through Afghanistan to the Arabian Sea, there will be no absolute rule in the issue of access to the region." This estimate by the well-known American political scientist Zbigniew Brzezinski is a quintessential approach of the West to the Caspian region problems.