CASPIAN COUNTRIES PONDER RUSSIAN PROPOSAL ON LIMITED SECTORAL DIVISION.

Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 74

Moscow is moving close to agreement with Kazakhstan but continues disagreeing with Azerbaijan and, apparently, with Turkmenistan on the legal status of the Caspian Sea. On April 14 in Ashgabat, Russia’s First Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov presented to Turkmen President Saparmurat Niazov a draft document recently approved in principle by the presidents and foreign ministries of Russia and Kazakhstan. The document envisions the division of the Caspian seabed into national sovereign sectors along the median line between littoral countries, leaving the water surface and the water depth under common jurisdiction. In the Russian view, that form of common jurisdiction would make possible joint regulation of shipping, fishing and ecological protection by all countries, without regard to sectoral division.

Niazov and his foreign minister, Boris Shikhmuradov, are said to have responded by defending the principle of complete sectoral division in accordance with international law. That principle envisions national jurisdiction also over both water surface and water depth, not just over the seabed. Turkmenistan reportedly wants negotiations on sectoral division now and regulation of shipping, fishing and ecological protection only afterward, when national sovereignty in the respective sectors will have been codified.

Azerbaijan is more outspoken in defending this principle. Foreign Minister Tofig Zulfugarov stated that Baku seeks complete division into national sectors under international law, "not only of the seabed but also of the water surface and the water depth, in order to be able to exercise full sovereign rights over activities in one’s own sector." Azerbaijani President Haidar Aliev had taken the same position last week receiving Pastukhov in Baku. Turkmen and Russian officials indicated that Baku had successfully demonstrated to Turkmenistan to the merits of that position.

While in Ashgabat, Pastukhov voiced "strong objections" to the U.S.-proposed trans-Caspian pipelines to carry Kazakh and Turkmen oil and gas to Azerbaijan and further to Turkey. Denouncing "the pipeline games played by countries far removed from the Caspian," Pastukhov claimed that the proposed trans-Caspian pipelines would damage the Caspian basin’s ecology and thus injure the interests of all littoral countries, including Russia. Consequently "all Caspian countries" must have a voice in any decisions related to the pipelines, Pastukhov argued. (Panorama (Baku), April 15; Russian and Western agencies, April 14 through 16) The argument indicates that Moscow is prepared to use any type of common jurisdiction, including that over ecological and shipping issues, in attempting to thwart Western pipeline projects in the Caspian. Kazakhstan supports the proposed trans-Caspian pipelines. It may, however, be creating difficulties for itself if it approves the limited sectoral division now favored by Moscow. — VS

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