By Aygul Salmanova
A press conference dedicated to the Moscow meeting of foreign ministers of the Caspian countries dedicated to the status of the Caspian Sea was held in Baku on December 6.
At the meeting held on December 5, the sides agreed on the text of the Caspian Sea convention, which will be put for approval of the presidents of the Caspian countries, who may meet in Kazakhstan in the first half of next year.
The draft convention on the status of the Caspian Sea fully meets Azerbaijan’s national interests, Deputy Foreign Minister Khalaf Khalafov said at a press conference.
“A meeting dedicated to the status of the Caspian Sea has been successfully held in Moscow,” he said. “A framework convention was coordinated at the meeting.”
During the past two decades, the difficulties in determining the status of the Caspian Sea, surrounded by the five coastal countries of Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan, are linked, in particular, with the recognition of it as a lake or sea, the delineation of which is regulated by different provisions of international law.
The issue became relevant after the collapse of the USSR, when the emergence of new subjects of international law - Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan - raised the issue of delimitation of the Caspian Sea between the five littoral countries.
According to the draft convention, 15 miles in the Caspian Sea are outlined as a zone of territorial waters, 10 miles as a fishing zone, while the remaining part is intended for general use.
“The bottom of the Caspian Sea is divided into sectors,” he said. “The convention also includes the principles of safety of navigation and the preservation of military balance.”
The interstate procedures in connection with the draft convention will be carried out in the countries which agreed on the document, according to the deputy minister.
“Following the technical and normative registration of the convention and its approval by the presidents of the corresponding countries at the next meeting on the status of the Caspian Sea, it can be submitted for the presidents to sign it,” Khalafov added.
He said the draft convention outlines the principles of cooperation between the Caspian countries.
“While the draft convention was being coordinated, Azerbaijan's position was based on the country's oil strategy, as well as the principles of good-neighborliness,” he added. “According to the convention, the bottom of the Caspian Sea is completely divided into sectors among the countries which are near each other and opposite each other.”
Khalafov added that the draft convention implies absolutely equal rights for all sides.
“In these sectors, the sides are entitled to use mineral resources and engage in other economic activity,” Khalafov said. “The draft convention also includes the countries’ rights for the use of commercial and military ships in the Caspian Sea, as well as the right to enter the World Ocean and other seas and the right to return back.”
The deputy minister also talked about the security issues reflected in the convention. He noted that the Convention reflects the principle of compliance by the countries of the Caspian Basin with each other's security.
“There will be agreements on this issue. We are coordinating one of them. This is our joint activity to prevent incidents," Khalafov noted.
The deputy minister noted that the Caspian Sea is a water basin within which the rights and jurisdictions of five states operate.
"Security and stability issues must come from these countries. If according to the Convention any state increases military power in the Caspian Sea, it must maintain a balance," Khalafov stressed.
The deputy minister also made remarks on the issue of construction of the Trans-Caspian pipelines reflected in the convention, noting that this will be coordinated with the countries through which those pipelines are to pass.
The implementation of the Trans-Caspian pipeline project depends on the solution of the Caspian Sea status issue.
The European Union adopted a mandate in 2011 to negotiate a legally binding treaty between the EU, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan to build the Trans Caspian Pipeline System. This was the first time that the Union proposed a treaty in support of an infrastructure project.
The Trans-Caspian pipeline agreement will set the basis for construction of a submarine pipeline connecting Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan, and in turn link this pipeline to infrastructure that will bring gas from Central Asia to the EU.
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