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Tuesday, 12 December 2017 16:00

Russia offering an elegant solution for the Caspian status, - Igor Bratchikov Featured

Russia offering  an elegant solution for the Caspian status, - Igor Bratchikov

Caspian Energy (CE): Can we consider the Convention about the legal status of the Caspian Sea agreed? The negotiations over it took 20 years. Will it be adopted at the 5th Caspian summit and when will it take place?

Igor Bratchikov, Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation: The work over the Convention was practically complete at the session of the Foreign Affairs Ministers of Caspian states, which took place in Moscow on December 5, 2017. Now all parties have to carry out the authorized domestic procedures to prepare this document for signing on the high level. This historical event is expected to happen at the 5th Caspian summit in Kazakhstan in the first half of 2018. Our counterparts in Kazakhstan intend to agree the concrete date through the diplomatic channels, considering the working schedules of 5 presidents.

CE: Could you please tell how the process of harmonization of the document ran? Which issues took the littoral states long to reach the consensus?

Igor Bratchikov: I guess the historians of diplomacy and political scientists will have to describe the details of negotiations over the legal status of the Caspian Sea after the Convention is adopted and starts serving for the welfare of all the 5 littoral states. However, it is evident that the entire process of developing a legal status of this unique water body, meeting modern requirements, got a real great impulse from the decision of the 4th Caspian summit which took place in September 2014 in Astrakhan. The participants of the Astrakhan summit have unanimously found the outcome of the summit as “breakthrough” results.

The agreements reached by Presidents in Astrakhan were introduced into the Convention text in harmonious manner in the following three years. They were concretized in the relevant articles and paragraphs of the Convention.

Let me stress that the final version of the Convention is a product of the balanced compromise and represents the established balance of interests without infringing on the positions of any country. Thereby, the Convention lays a legal basis for the future conflict-free diverse cooperation in the region. This document contains single clear regulations for cooperation of countries in different areas, a procedure of settlement of possible disputable issues without an outside interference, as well as maintenance of safe and predictable situation.

CE: Nowadays there are lots of idle sites in the Caspian, where no operating activities are conducted because of the luck of legal agreements. Do you think that in the southern part of the Caspian the three countries - Azerbaijan, Iran and Turkmenistan - can develop them on a parity basis, adhering to the experience of Russia?

Igor Bratchikov: The leaders of the Caspian littoral countries discussed the matter of resource jurisdiction during the Astrakhan summit. Then they came to understanding that the seabed and subsoil resources the Caspian Sea shall be demarcated for the purposes of subsoil use on the basis of agreement between the neighbouring and opposite-lying states in two-sided and three-sided formats. The positive experience of such kind of delimitation does exist: Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan divided the seabed and subsoil of the North Caspian on the basis of the agreements dated 1998-2003, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan –by the agreement dated 2014. I admit that, provided the sides show goodwill and a certain degree of flexibility, the “northern formula” is also applicable to finding an elegant and mutually beneficial solution to the “southern equation”.

CE: What is Russia’s stance on Trans-Caspian gas pipelines? Has it undergone any changes?

Igor Bratchikov: Russia's position on construction of main pipelines in the water area of the Caspian Sea is open and consistent. We continue to advocate the preservation of the environmental imperative during implementation of infrastructure projects. This position comes from the requirements of the commitments assumed under the international treaties in the field of environmental protection such as, for example, the Framework Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea adopted in 2003 (Tehran Convention), and, at the same time, elementary categories of common sense. Indeed, it would be extremely imprudent to forget about possible fatal environmental consequences for the fragile ecosystem of the sea in pursuit of hypothetical economic benefits. Such an approach would negate the principle of joint responsibility for the fate of the Caspian Sea declared by the parties and downplay the significant efforts the littoral countries are making to keep the Caspian Sea “alive” for future generations, recover and multiply its lost biodiversity, and reduce the level of anthropogenic pressure. We are pleased to note that the parties were able to find verified formulations on this principal issue in the draft Convention.

CE: Could you please tell about how a five-sided consensus regarding possible force majeure situations in exploration and production of oil and gas in the Caspian will be reached by the Caspian littoral states?

Igor Bratchikov: To address such problems, we have the good legal instrument, namely the above-mentioned Tehran Convention and its Protocols. The first one is the Protocol Concerning Regional Preparedness, Response and Co-operation in Combating Oil Pollution Incidents (Aktau Protocol, 2011) already took effect in July 2016. The most important Protocol on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context is in a high degree of readiness, and Russia expects it to be signed before or simultaneously with adoption of the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea.

 

 Thank you for the interview

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