Reply by the head of the Russian delegation at multilateral talks on the legal status of the Caspian Sea and special envoy of the Foreign Ministry Igor Bratchikov to a media question about the possibility of building a Trans-Caspian gas pipeline after signing the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea
Question: After the signing of the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea, comments appeared in the foreign press, including in the Caspian countries, according to which all obstacles which might have got in the way of the construction of the so-called Trans-Caspian gas pipeline have been removed. Is it true that Russia has changed its initial position on the project, notably on the need of environmental expertise?
Igor Bratchikov: The Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea signed by the presidents of the Caspian states in Aktau on August 12 detailed provisions for the laying of underwater pipelines on the bed of the Caspian Sea.
The Convention states the obvious right of all littoral states to lay technological pipelines in their section of the seabed. In fact, many thousands of kilometres of different kinds of pipelines (in-field, interfield pipelines, water pipelines) have already been laid and eventually there will be many more.
On a par with this, the convention makes a special reservation about the pipelines that were not built in the Caspian Sea before, notably long-distance or trans-Caspian pipelines. Article 14 reads that the parties can lay them but on condition that the projects dealing with their construction correspond to the environmental requirements and standards that are fixed in international treaties, of which they are parties, including the Framework Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea and relevant protocols.
On July 20, the ministers of the environment of the five Caspian littoral states signed a Protocol on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context to the 2003 Tehran Convention, which is directly mentioned in Article 14. It gives each Caspian littoral state the right to take part in the comprehensive environmental expertise of marine activities that may affect the marine environment of the Caspian Sea because of their transboundary character. In other words, in addition to the obvious need for an expertise at the national level, it will be necessary to conduct an additional meticulous analysis of such activities by all sides that may be potentially affected by them. Understandably, such large-scale invasive projects as the transfer of hydrocarbons from one coast of the Caspian Sea to another automatically come within the terms of the protocol.
So, if and when the plans of building trans-Caspian pipelines become a reality, each Caspian littoral state, if it deems it necessary, will be able to take part in assessing the potential consequences of such projects for the Caspian marine environment as early as at the design stage.