Russian Foreign Ministry chief spokesman Grigorii Karasin told a briefing yesterday that Moscow regards as "groundless the claims by this or that Caspian country to unilateral use of vast areas of that closed body of water. The Caspian’s legal status must be the subject of as special treaty concluded by all Caspian states." Karasin dismissed the notion that the Russian government’s authorization to the LukOil company to participate in international oil projects in Caspian countries might weaken Russia’s claim that those projects are illegal. LukOil’s participation is a "purely commercial" matter which in no way predetermines the Caspian’s legal status, the spokesman said. (18)
The warning’s timing is probably connected by LukOil’s recent inclusion in Azerbaijan’s second large-scale international oil contract and in the consortium to build a pipeline from Kazakhstan’s Tengiz oilfield. Russia’s Foreign Ministry apparently wants to dispel the view that LukOil’s participation in such projects undermines Russia’s legal case against sectoral division and national rights over mineral resources in individual Caspian countries. Last week, a Russian governmental newspaper termed Azerbaijan’s two oil projects "scandalous" and warned that "technically speaking all projects to recover oil from the Caspian shelf are illegal." (19) Earlier this month, the Foreign Ministry’s chief legal adviser gave the opinion that Russia has the legal right to drill for oil 10 kilometers off Baku since the Caspian is an indivisible lake in Moscow’s view.
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