Caspian dialog about vital issues

Oct 06, 2008 02:00 AM

by Samat Rakhimbayev

At the end of the last week in September the Third International Conference "Caspian Dialog" took place.
It became a major forum of the experts of the Caspian states for discussion and suggestion for politicians on the existing problems in the region of the Caspian Sea, starting from security issues to fishery issues and preservation of bio-resources.

Marat Shaikhutdinov, Director of the Institute of the World Economy and Politics under the Foundation of the First President of Kazakhstan, stated that the main topical issue is currently not allowing of enforcement of political tension in the Caspian region otherwise: "it will be difficult to speak on thematic problems, to which our colleagues devoted the first and second 'Caspian dialog'."
"This region in the world history and politics played an important role, uniting economies and cultures generally, but separated from each other's countries and peoples. But at the same time its geographical location and natural resources create not only certain advantages, but certain inconveniences, urging big states to take them under their control," Shaikhutdinov said.

The problematic political situation of the Caspian Sea is worsened by the fact that five coastline states are still not ready to register international legal status of the Caspian Sea, which creates a lot of difficulties for development of the natural resources of the basin. Although all five countries declare a wish to speed up the process of completing development and adoption of the basic concept of the legal status of the Caspian Sea, negotiations are very slow.
Meantime, the region is more involved in the interests, causing conflict by influential global and regional players. And many issues, particularly referring to the development of energy resources, are a subject for strong politization.

"Literally, every step of the Caspian states in the field of extraction and transportation of hydrocarbons is considered through a fight between great powers," Shaikhutdinov noted.
And there are global political problems, which can have direct influence on the Caspian region. For example, it is hard to imagine consequences for the future of the Caspian countries if the USA and their allies try methods to "solve" the Iranian atomic problem using force.

Events of August of this year in South Ossetia were a "cold shower" for many politicians and observers. Although this region does not have direct access to the Caspian Sea, the whole Transcaucasian region is not too great geographically, and any military-political accident "casts a shadow" in the Caspian region as well.
Analogical crisis may become an excuse for a new stage of the "arms race" on a regional scale that will have a serious effect on the demilitarization of the Caspian Sea, which Kazakhstan has been defending for several years.

The war in South Ossetia and the way it was all dealt with pose a serious problem and economic plan, more topical for Kazakhstan: issues of investments for developmentof hydrocarbon resources of the sea shelf. This topic is a major one for all countries, but for Kazakhstan in particular. At the coastline of Azerbaijan oil has already been developed and Russian oil extraction will just be started next year.
Turkmenistan and Iran are far from the development of their shelf resources because they have solid oil and gas reserves in other areas. And only Kazakhstan among all other Caspian states links all its hopes to the development of the shelf resources.

Naturally, the country itself does not have enough financial investments and those who are willing to provide it will be more cautious, assessing political risks, including the risk of a possible war in Transcaucasia.
Though, it should be mentioned that there is a serious precedent in the region of achieving compromise, more so on the very complicated issue and not just by two, but by three members. The topic is about the agreement on dividing the fundamentals and principles of development of oil and gas resources, which has been achieved by Kazakhstan, Russia and Azerbaijan. Actually, this experience could be extrapolated for Azeri-Turkmen debates as well on dividing of the shelf, and also for Iranian-Azeri debates, which become a reason of the only case, so far, in the entire Caspian region of usage of military force.

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