"Countries bordering on the Caspian Sea have no legal right to develop its resources until the sea’s new status has been determined," Russian deputy foreign minister (responsible for western and central Asia) Albert Chernyshev told a Moscow seminar yesterday. The Foreign Ministry’s legal department director Aleksandr Khodakov was more specific: "Russia cannot recognize the legal grounds of Baku’s contract for developing the Chirag, Azeri, and Guneshli oil fields in the Caspian Sea" –i.e., the $7.5 billion "deal of the century" between Azerbaijan and an international consortium of oil companies. The Russian officials said that development of Caspian resources should proceed "on an equitable basis." (16)
The "equitable basis" evidently refers to Russia’s doctrine of "shared use" of Caspian resources. The Foreign Ministry is reaffirming a known stand, this time in a particularly stark form which appears designed to unsettle actual investors and to deter potential ones. It is also noteworthy that the international consortium’s decision to route part of the Azeri oil via Russia, approved by the main interested governments as an inducement to Moscow to drop its opposition to the deal, has apparently failed to mollify the Foreign Ministry.