Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 230

Presidents Haidar Aliev of Azerbaijan and Saparmurat Niazov of Turkmenistan have jointly decided to launch bilateral negotiations on delimiting the two countries’ respective Caspian sectors. Baku and Ashgabat announced yesterday that Aliev and Niazov met in Tehran during the current summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. The two presidents resolved to create a joint commission, co-chaired by Foreign Ministers Hasan Hasanov and Boris Shikhmuradov, and mandated it to determine the Azerbaijani-Turkmen maritime border in accordance with the median line principle. The commission’s inaugural session is scheduled to be held within the month.

The presidents instructed the commission to act in a spirit of "consensus, reasonable compromise, and mutually advantageous partnership" in order to facilitate international cooperation in Caspian oil projects. They pointed out that "a large part of Caspian oil reserves is located precisely in the corridor between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan." (Turan, Russian agencies, December 9)

Turkmenistan has recently claimed full or partial jurisdiction rights over three major maritime oilfields that Azerbaijan considers its own. Two of them form part of Baku’s "deal of the century" with the AIOC international consortium. The third — designated as Kapaz by Azerbaijan and as Serdar by Turkmenistan, and known in the Soviet era as Promezhutochnoe, meaning Intermediate — was earlier this year the object of an agreement between Baku and Russian companies. The latter pulled out after Ashgabat aired its claim. Turkmenistan takes the position that it would not interfere with the existing Western projects, but that it expects royalties from them.

Ashgabat’s claim has not thus far produced any disruptive repercussions. More significantly, it has had the constructive corollary of placing Turkmenistan behind the principle of division of the Caspian Sea into national sectors, and thus from a legal standpoint on the side of Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, against Russia and Iran, which advocate common jurisdiction. Washington has recently encouraged Baku and Ashgabat to negotiate their differences on the basis of sectoral division, and has offered its good offices to that end.

Central Asian Union Institutionalized but Slow to Develop.