Iran warns against build-up of foreign forces in Caspian Sea
In the latest move in the ongoing Caspian Sea demarcation saga, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami warned against the
build-up of foreign forces in the region. Khatami stressed that the area should be policed by regional actors
Iran has made a number of overtures to its Caspian neighbours recently, in an attempt to defuse the growing tension over the borders of the Caspian Sea. Five countries border the sea, specifically Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Russia and Kazakhstan. In particular, Khatami pointed to Azerbaijan, with which Iran believes it holds common interests.
Recent talks, however, on how to resolve the Caspian issue have met with little success. Iran’s special envoy
for Caspian affairs, Mehdi Safari, travelled to Baku earlier this month to discuss the sea’s legal boundaries,
but the two sides clashed on the method of delineation.
A series of confrontational incidents preceded the talks. In July of 2001, an Iranian military ship confronted a BP research vessel at the Araz-Alov-Sharg concession of operating in Iranian waters. Azerbaijan, in turn, has fiercely objected to an offshore contract awarded by Iran to Shell and Lasmo.
Iran says that the agreements made between it and the Soviet Union back in 1921 and 1940 will remain valid until the
sea’s status is clarified. Until then, it refuses to make any unilateral deals.
Khatami admitted that the littoral states differ in their views on the sea, but one cannot expect all the problems to be settled overnight. He added that he was optimistic about the future.