By Nigar Orujova
Azerbaijan supports defining the Caspian Sea's legal status while taking into account the littoral states' sovereign rights, Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister said.
Elmar Mammadyarov made the remarks at the meeting of the Caspian littoral states' foreign ministers in Moscow on April 22.
The ministers of five Caspian littoral states - Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan- discussed preparations for the Caspian summit, which will be held in autumn in Astrakhan.
"Azerbaijan reaffirms its commitment to address issues related to all cooperation areas, including the Caspian Sea's legal status, taking into account littoral states' sovereign rights, mutually beneficial partnership and peaceful means and negotiations," Mammadyarov said.
Preparing a full agenda and adopting the final documents of the Caspian states summit will contribute to coordinating the fundamental principles of the Caspian agenda and strengthen the existing framework of cooperation between the Caspian states, he said.
Mammadyarov believes that considerable work has been carried out in order to strengthen the legal framework of cooperation between the Caspian states.
"The cooperation agreement regarding the hydro-meteorological study of the Caspian Sea has been agreed upon and is ready to be signed. At the same time, a cooperation agreement for preventing and addressing emergency situations in the Caspian Sea has been agreed upon," he said.
Experts continue to work for the final coordination of the agreement on the conservation and rational use of biological resources in the Caspian Sea, Mammadyarov added.
"Undoubtedly, imposing a moratorium on catching sturgeon species will create the right conditions for preserving the Caspian Sea's unique values and passing them to the future generations."
Once all the Caspian states ratify the Agreement on Security Cooperation in the Caspian Sea, signed on November 18, 2010, in Baku, a new impetus will be given to close cooperation between the sides, he said.
Azerbaijan shares the littoral states' common concern over the current condition of the Caspian Sea's environment, and their interest in expanding cooperation to address those environmental problems.
"We appreciate the work done under the Framework Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea and its protocols. As the first party hosting the secretariat in January 2015, Azerbaijan is ready to provide all the necessary conditions for its further success," he said.
Mammadyarov also noted with satisfaction that the provisions of the draft convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea, which touch upon the protection of the environment, have been fully coordinated.
He highlighted the following issues, which remain a priority for the Caspian Sea countries: strengthening international cooperation, improving the investment climate for developing energy resources and their transportation to international markets, creating reliable and secure communications, and using highly profitable and environmentally friendly technologies.
Being an important component of the transport corridors, the Caspian Sea is a connecting link in many international and regional projects, he said.
Thus, Mammadyarov noted, the success of the projects that connect the Caspian Sea to the Black and the Mediterranean seas -the Baku-Supsa and Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipelines, as well as the implementation of the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline and the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway projects- contribute to the economic development and welfare of the countries of the Caspian Sea region, and global energy security.
The importance of mutual trust among the littoral countries, especially in issues related to regional stability, security, and economic and research activities in the Caspian Sea, was also emphasized.
"The presence of the littoral countries' armed forces and their military activities in the Caspian Sea should be based on the principle of ensuring equal security conditions for all the Caspian states. This serves to strengthen mutual trust among regional countries and turn the Caspian Sea into an area of friendship, cooperation, and good neighborhood," he said.
Mammadyarov also emphasized the importance of free transit for the landlocked Caspian Sea countries from the Caspian Sea to other seas and oceans.
He pointed out that Baku attaches great importance to the agreements signed between Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Russia on the delimitation of the Caspian Sea.
These agreements are an integral part of the Caspian Sea's legal status and a basis for reaching overall agreements.
"Undoubtedly, the common interest of regional countries in improving the investment climate, developing energy resources, creating reliable and secure communications, and ensuring security and stability in the Caspian Sea region requires our additional efforts to reach an agreement on all outstanding issues," he said.
"Moreover, we are confident that a consensus on establishing baselines by using the best international practice will contribute to reaching overall agreements," the minister added.
Mammadyarov concluded that the meeting of foreign ministers of the Caspian Sea countries will undoubtedly contribute to the success of the Astrakhan summit and further rapprochement of the littoral states' positions for achieving definitive solutions for important tasks.
Baku believes that Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan have no problems in the Caspian Sea, Mammadyarov told journalists in Baku on April 23.
He said Azerbaijan supports turning the Caspian Sea into a sea of cooperation and security.
The foreign ministers approved a large number of principles that will provide the basis for a convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea, ITAR-TASS quoted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying after the conference.
"These are the delimitation of maritime spaces and measures to save the population of sturgeons as an endangered species," he said.
During the meeting, the ministers discussed and "partially solved" issues related to the delimitation of water areas, "taking into account the agreements that were reached at the five-party talks on the delimitation of the seabed", he said.
Speaking at the conference, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said Iran calls for the earliest closure of the issue of the Caspian legal status.
"Iran believes that it is necessary to take steps that would meet multilateral long-term and joint interests," he said. "A new status of the Caspian Sea must meet the needs and expectations of the littoral countries' peoples."
He also noted that any non-littoral military presence in the Caspian region is inadmissible.
The next meeting of the working group of the Caspian states will be held in Tehran in June.
The five Caspian littoral states signed the Framework Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea in November 2003. The legal status of the sea is still a matter of discussion between the littoral states.
While Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Russia agreed on the delimitation of the sea in early 2000, the other littoral states -Turkmenistan and Iran- have not reached a consensus yet.