The Caspian Sea Is a Sea of Cooperation, Not Competition

In the future, the Caspian Sea should become a “sea of cooperation, not competition.” The Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea establishes a platform for the beginning of constructive interaction between the five Caspian countries in energy and security. The signing of the document is a fait accompli, and no state outside the Caspian region can influence the situation in any way, says Valdai Club expert Farhad Mammadov.

It took 22 years to prepare the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea and during that time several agreements were reached on a very large number of issues. First of all, there are the agreements between Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Russia. At the same time, each of the five countries carried out geological explorations, oil and gas production in their national sectors. The Convention opens an opportunity for regulation, establishes exact borders of national sectors in the Caspian Sea, and also gives an impulse to qualitatively new relations both in bilateral and five-sided formats. After the signing of this document, the states can cooperate on a bilateral basis, laying pipelines along the Caspian seabed, as well as on the transfer and communication issues.

In two years, the Southern Gas Corridor, initiated by Azerbaijan, will be put into operation. In June, the Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline, an integral part of that corridor, was opened. In the next two years, it is planned to complete the implementation of the Trans-Adriatic gas pipeline with access to the European market. Today Azerbaijan has a pipeline infrastructure for oil exports, and in two years the infrastructure for gas export to Europe will be ready. Azerbaijan is interested in the transit of this hydrocarbon to Europe. In principle, Azerbaijan also does this for Kazakhstan: for several years, from 1 to 3 million tons of Kazakh oil have been exported through the Azerbaijani pipeline system.

Of course, gas must also reach the customers. Therefore, new prospects for Azerbaijan are opened both on the energy resources transit issue, as well as regarding the transport and logistics areas. An example is the North-South Corridor, where Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia take part. President Ilham Aliev of Azerbaijan mentioned in his address that last year about 1,700 tons of cargoes were transported through Azerbaijan, and only in the first seven months of this year – 175,000 tons, which means a 100-fold cargo volume transportation increase in comparison to the previous year. Last year Azerbaijan together with Georgia and Turkey launched the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, and the construction of the port continues. Last year 191 containers were transported, and in 6 months of this year – already 1,400 containers. Interest in transport and logistics potential is very high, and will grow in the future.

For two decades each of the five countries has been carrying out infrastructure projects. Vladimir Putin said that a major Caspian port will be built and a strategy for the development of Russian ports until 2030 will be adopted. Each of the countries has such a strategy – large projects have already been implemented and are awaiting the inclusion of the Caspian Sea. The ambitions will give impetus to the multiple increase in cargo transportation volumes and energy products in different directions: both East-West and North-South.

The next very important element is security. Discussions between the five Caspian states have lasted for two decades, and an agreement was reached at the Astrakhan summit, which was repeated in the Convention signed in Aktau: the non-existence of military bases of states that are not Caspian.

Along with this, some ideas were voiced that in the future the Caspian Sea should become a “sea of cooperation, not competition.” In this respect, the above-mentioned document establishes a platform for the beginning of constructive interaction between the five Caspian countries, be it the militarization of the Caspian Sea or the military cooperation in the Caspian region.

The five Caspian states have their own points of view on the world arena, which they have repeatedly confirmed. In this respect, there should be no problems with the non-regional states. The signing of the Convention is a fait accompli, and no state outside the Caspian region can influence the situation in any way.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.