Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 18

Turkmen president Saparmurad Niazov and deputy foreign minister Yilmaz Kikbaev were cited over the weekend as claiming legal title to Azerbaijan’s Azeri and/or Chirag offshore oil fields, allegedly because they are situated in "Turkmenistan’s waters." The officials were cited as endorsing Russia’s proposals for a "condominium" of riparian states over the sea’s resources and for taking two old USSR-Iranian agreements as a basis for working out the Caspian Sea’s legal status. It is still unclear whether Ashgabat claims one or both fields. Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry has officially asked Turkmenistan to explain its position. Azeri and Chirag (along with Guneshli) are being developed by an international consortium under the "deal of the century." (Niazov interview with The Financial Times, January 23; Kikbaev interview with Radio Liberty, January 25, as cited by Turan, January 25, and Interfax, January 26)

Moscow last November nudged Turkmenistan into supporting a "compromise" proposal envisaging division the Caspian Sea into national zones and a large "condominium" area in the center, plus "pinpoint" national jurisdiction over oil fields in the central area if they are already being developed under international contracts. That proposal, if accepted, could arguably entitle Turkmenistan to some Azerbaijani oil fields. Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan opposed the proposal, while Turkmenistan broke ranks with them and sided with Russia and Iran. These last three countries have since founded a joint company for prospecting and developing oil and gas deposits in the "condominium" area they seek to establish.

Central Asian Union Develops Security Structures