Interview of Igor Bratchikov, Head of the Russian delegation to the multilateral talks on the Caspian Sea, Ambassador-at-large of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation to “Caspian Energy” magazine published on May 11, 2016
Question: What could you say about the results of the session of the joint workgroup on the Caspian Sea hosted in Baku? What are the points of the Convention where the workgroup could build a consensus? How ready is the Convention for signing?
Answer: The main outcomes of the 44th meeting of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea at the level of Deputy Foreign Ministers of the Caspian Sea States hosted in Baku on 5-6 April this year were reflected in the official communiqué issued after the meeting. I am pleased to note that a number of important provisions and articles of the draft Convention, including those relating to sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction in the Caspian Sea, were agreed during the talks in the five-sided format. I would like to extend special thanks to the Azerbaijani side, which perfectly organized and hosted this meeting.
This year, the format of the Ad Hoc Working Group is celebrating its 20th anniversary of its establishing. Looking back, you realize how much has been done to bring together the positions of the five countries on the wide range of issues related to the Caspian Sea legal status. The resolutions of the Fourth Caspian Summit held in Astrakhan in 2014 enabled the additional push to this work. The progress made on the negotiation track over the last year and a half opens real prospects to have a ready Convention text in the very near future.
Question: How close are the sides now to the comprehensive consensus on the legal status of the Caspian Sea?
Answer: Many items and paragraphs of the draft Convention, from delimitation of the Caspian Sea water area to carrying out research work, have been agreed since when the Fourth Caspian Summit was held. Through joint efforts we agreed the most part of this basic document for cooperation in the Caspian Sea.
I have no doubt that with political will and mutual consideration of the interests of the parties we will be able to settle a few remaining open questions to be put on the agenda at following meetings of the joint workgroup.
Question: Which documents will be submitted during the session of the Heads of State of the Caspian Sea countries in Astana? When will this session be hosted?
Answer: By now, four meetings of the Heads of State the Caspian Sea states have been already hosted. The sides agreed to hold the Fifth Caspian Summit in the five-sided format in Kazakhstan. The ambitious objective of all five countries is to have a ready Convention text prior to the summit. Such task was set by the leaders of our countries at the end of the previous Astrakhan summit at the highest level held in 2014. This is our key priority for today.
The five-sided agreements aimed at enhanced cooperation in such areas as navigation safety, economy, transportation, fight against cross-border crime are well on track. The decision whether to submit some of them for the summit will be made later.
Speaking about an approximate date of the Fifth Summit will be probably possible after the Meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Caspian states which will take place this summer in Kazakhstan.
Question: What is the principled position of the Russian side on the issue of demarcation of the Caspian Sea bottom? Is a compromise on this issue with the participation of all parties admissible?
Answer: The Astrakhan statement of the Heads of State of the Caspian Sea countries, which was also initialed by the President of Russia, says the delimitation of the seabed and subsoil of the Caspian Sea should be carried out by agreement of the parties on the basis of the universally recognized principles and norms of international law. Actually, half the work is already done: mining zones in the Northern Caspian Sea between Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Russia have been already delimited and the boundary between the Kazakh and Turkmen bottom sectors has been defined.
Question: How did the position of the parties on construction of Trans Caspian pipelines change?
Answer: The Russia's position on this issue is consistent and extremely open. Construction of pipelines across the Caspian Sea, which is a unique in every sense water reservoir, should be considered, first of all, through the prism of the environment and only then from the viewpoint of economy. Let those, who intend to invest in such projects, think about economy of such projects, their efficiency and financial payback. But the environmental side of the issue primarily concerns the Caspian littoral countries – each of the Caspian littoral states without exception. Here all five Caspian states have the right of vote since they bear common responsibility for the future of the Caspian Sea. Unilateral action on construction of Trans Caspian pipelines is inadmissible.
Question: What principle should serve as a basis for the Caspian littoral states to develop cross-border fields?
Answer: We are of the opinion that neighboring countries should develop these fields on the basis of agreements between them. A good example of interaction in this field is the cooperation between Russia and Kazakhstan.
Question: What do you think about opening of the permanent Secretariat of the Framework Convention in Baku? To what extent will it contribute to addressing the Caspian Sea status problem?
Answer: The Caspian Sea littoral states have made a resolution to host the Secretariat of the Framework Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea on a rotating basis. Baku was honored to be the first to host the Secretariat of the Tehran Convention. We stand for opening of a representative office of this organization in the capital of Azerbaijan as soon as possible, and we hope that its operation will give an additional impetus to the implementation of one of the key five-sided documents across the Caspian. However, the work of the Secretariat and its placement in the particular geographic location has nothing to do with the status-related concerns.