Caspian Energy (CE): How would you assess the readiness of the Convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea? Which issues require solution and political will of heads of the Caspian States?
Khalaf Khalafov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan: As is known, the negotiations on development of the legal status of the Caspian Sea are continued in the five-sided format with participation of heads of states and ministers of foreign affairs, as well as in the framework of the special working group involving deputy ministers of foreign affairs of the Caspian states.
Special working group is involved in comprehensive development and preparation of the Convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea for signing. This working group has started operating since 1996 and held 44 meetings so far. Meanwhile, there have been 4 summits of the heads of Caspian states held since 2002 in Ashgabat, Tehran, Baku and Astrakhan, all preceded by the meetings of foreign affairs ministers.
Astrakhan hosted the last summit in 2014 where the meeting participants decided to hold the next summit in Kazakhstan. In order to conduct the following Summit, we find it necessary to consolidate efforts aimed at reaching an agreement on the basic provisions of the Draft Convention.
Agreements and political decisions, obtained within the framework of summits of heads of states, made a strong contribution to coordination of basic principles of the Convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea and promoted acceleration of further work over the draft Convention in general. Meanwhile, there are still discussions held on provisions of the draft Convention, which concern security and strengthening of mutual trust between coastal countries. Apart from this, there are many issues concerning methods of establishment of baselines, laying of subwater cables and pipelines, as well as rights and opportunities of coastal states which have no access to other seas and the global ocean.
CE: What have been the results of the 44th session of the Special Working Group on the Caspian Sea held in Baku? What further steps should be taken to promote this issue?
Khalaf Khalafov: In the course of the 44th session of the Special Working Group held in Baku on April 5-6 of this year, the several important provisions and clauses of the draft Conventionwere agreed, which also concerned sovereignty, exercising of sovereign rights and jurisdiction of sides in the Caspian Sea. I would like to note that upon the agreements of all Caspian countries, the agenda of each session of the working group includes concrete themes for discussion as well as issues that remain open at the previous sessions. Meanwhile, extensive discussion of methods of establishment of baselines is carried out within the framework of the working group upon the instruction of the heads of Caspian States.
In this regard, I would say that conduct of regular meetings creates necessary conditions for bringing positions together and reaching certain results. There are no doubts that the efforts made will help to reach consensus on all provisions of the draft Convention.
CE: What documents will be put forward for signing at the Astana summit of heads of the Caspian states? When is it planned to hold a summit?
Khalaf Khalafov: It is a good question. All Caspian states share a single opinion about the necessity of making maximum efforts for final approval of the draft Convention about the legal status of the Caspian Sea until the next summit of the heads of Caspian states which is planned to be held in Kazakhstan. I hope that the Astana Summit will fix the results of the long-standing work over the draft Convention, which in its turn will create a comprehensive legal framework for interaction and cooperation of the Caspian states.
Meanwhile, I would like to note that the Agreement on cooperation in the field of security in the Caspian Sea was signed at Baku summit of heads of Caspian States and entered into force. Spheres of cooperation were determined within the framework of this agreement. Discussions are currently underway on some of those spheres. However, now it is very difficult to predict which document will be put forward for signing at the Astana summit. It will depend on the result of the negotiations over drafts of relevant documents and reached agreements.
At present, it is planned to hold sessions of the special working group in the Islamic Republic of Iran and Kazakhstan respectively. It has also been agreed to hold a meeting at the level of foreign ministers of Caspian states in Astana. These meetings will certainly promote reaching of the required consensus over substantial matters. I hope that possible dates for holding the summit in Astana will be agreed as well.
CE: To what extent has the parties’ position on the issue of laying of Trans-Caspian pipelines changed? What stance does Azerbaijan take on this issue?
Khalaf Khalafov: At present, the parties have not changed their position on the issue of laying of subwater pipelines. Based on the international maritime law and appropriate international practice, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan keep finding it possible to lay pipelines along the Caspian Sea bed by consent and agreement between parties that have such pipeline crossing their territory. The rest countries suppose that consent of all Caspian states is needed to lay such pipelines. The discussion of this issue will be continued.
CE: To what degree have the parties brought their positions together in regard to determination of the coordinates of delimitation of the Caspian Sea bed between the Caspian states in the five sided format?
Khalaf Khalafov: As you know, there are already bilateral and trilateral agreements reached on the delimitation of the Caspian Sea bed, particularly between Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Russia. We attach big importance to these agreements which serve as the solid basis for determination of the legal status of the Caspian Sea. Moreover, I would like to note that Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan signed a similar agreement in 2014. We hope for an early settlement of issues concerning the delimitation of the seabed in the central and south parts of the Caspian Sea. Bilateral negotiations will be continued with Turkmenistan and Iran. I am confident that the potential of mutual relations between our countries will help to find a legal solution for this matter.
CE: Are the negotiations on joint development of border blocks (Kapaz and Alov-Araz-Sharg) in the Caspian underway?
Khalaf Khalafov: First of all, I would like to note that any type of activity in the Caspian Sea must be carried out in full compliance with universally recognized norms and principles of the international law and established practice in the Caspian Sea. In the meantime, the level of cooperation of the Caspian states makes it possible to consider all issues of mutual interest in a spirit of good neighbourly relations, mutually beneficial partnership and constructive dialogue. Solution of such issues is considered by us in the context of establishment of sovereignty and jurisdiction of parties with regard to different types of activity. In this context, bilateral negotiations are continued on different levels in order to find mutually favorable solutions.
CE: What lies in Azerbaijan’s proposals concerning the opening of the permanent Secretariat of the Framework Convention in Baku?
Khalaf Khalafov: We share the common concern of coastal states over the current environmental situation of the Caspian Sea and are interested in enhancing the cooperation aimed at solution of the environmental problems of the Caspian Sea. As is known, it is planned to hold the 6thConference of Parties of the Framework Convention for the Environmental Protection of the Caspian Sea in Baku. One of the major goals of this event will be the opening of the permanent Secretariat of the Framework Convention.
The Azerbaijani side has prepared a draft Agreement on hosting of the Secretariat in the city of Baku and expressed readiness to provide all necessary conditions for further successful work of this Secretariat.
Thank you for the interview
Interview made by Jeyhun Bayramov, Emil Mammadov