Iran rejects Azeri protest
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi rejected Azerbaijan's protest against Iran's agreements with
British and Dutch oil firms on exploration in the Caspian Sea.
Asefi termed Azerbaijan's protest as "lacking legal basis on the existing treaties," it was said.
Iran's National Iranian Oil Company signed an agreement worth $ 19.8 mm with Shell and British Lasmo to carry out a two-part study of unexplored waters in the Caspian Sea.
Azerbaijan lodged a protest against the agreement, saying waters to be explored in the Caspian Sea belong to Azerbaijan.
Asefi said he doubted if the Azeri officials were unaware of the principles of the 1921 friendship and amity treaty
between Iran and Russia, and the trade and navigation pact of 1940 and its enclosures between Iran and the former
In these agreements, which are still valid, there is no discussion about division or restriction of the limits of the sea and no documents exist to this effect, he said.
The spokesman said that the Caspian has been mentioned as Iran-Soviet joint sea in the enclosures to the 1940 pact, which indicates that it belongs to all the littoral states, therefore raising the issue of the Azeri sector of the sea lacks legal basis.
According to the Almaty declaration on December 21, 1991, the independent governments in the former Soviet Union have agreed to accept all the past commitments including the 1921 and 1940 pacts, he said.
Among the five littoral states of the Caspian, Iran and Russia favour a common share of the resources in the sea
while Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan prefer the division of the sea into national sectors.
Asefi said that the legal regime of the Caspian Sea can be changed only through consensus of all the littoral states and within the present legal regime. Iran's economic activities in the sea should not be a cause of concern for other governments, he added.
He stressed that Iran believes the collective legal regime based on the 1921 and 1940 agreements is still the best mechanism for co-operation in the Caspian.
However, if all the littoral states decide to divide the sea, then Iran will only agree with equal and complete division of the sea and its seabed.