Reshaping The Caspian Bloc?

Via The Asia Times, a report on a recent meeting of Caspian states that could foreshadow the emergence of a new regional economic grouping.  As the article notes:

“…On September 11-13, the presidents of Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan will meet in the Kazakh city of Aktau, on the shores of the Caspian Sea. The fifth country with a Caspian coastline, Iran, will not be represented.

Kazakhstan’s ambassador to Azerbaijan, Serik Primbetov, told a press conference in Baku that the four presidents will discuss border issues and regional cooperation, the Caspian Energy website reported.

Analysts say that one of the main topics for discussion is likely to be Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s proposal to set up the Caspian Economic Cooperation Organization.

He first floated the idea last October, but after some initial interest, no further progress was made. Medvedev revived the plan at a meeting on Caspian issues in early August.

Experts say one of the Kremlin’s motives for creating a regional bloc is to forestall plans by Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan to export oil and gas to the West without it going through Russia.

Azerbaijan already has export pipelines to Turkey, while Turkmenistan, on the other side of the Caspian, is keen to diversify its export routes, which at present are restricted almost entirely to Russia.

Developing alternative routes, especially ones involving pipelines under the Caspian, face a major and longstanding obstacle – the unresolved legal status of the sea.

Azerbaijan, Russia, and Kazakhstan favor a demarcation method where national sectors are sliced off along a median line; this would confirm their ownership of oil and gas reserves to which they already lay claim. Iran wants an equal division so that it does not lose out to the others, while Turkmenistan favours a solution that would take into account how close to each country’s shoreline the various oil and gas reserves are located.

Discussions on Caspian demarcation have been under way for 12 years. According to some analysts. Moscow believes it could break the deadlock by forging a Caspian bloc.

“What would happen if Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan – backed by the United States and Europe – reached a bilateral agreement defining the legal status of the Caspian? Russia would not be happy about that,” said Rovshan Ibrahimov, head of the international relations department at the Qavqaz University in Baku. “Establishment a regional bloc would create mechanisms for obstructing this from happening.”

Ibrahimov believes the proposed Caspian grouping is a real possibility, and the lack of agreement on the Caspian’s status is no obstacle.

The new grouping could also allow Moscow to rebuild ties with Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, both of which have been reluctant participants in other Russian-led initiatives and groupings.

Annadurdy Khajiyev, a Turkmen economic analyst based in Bulgaria, believes the Kremlin could use the new bloc to veto new pipelines running across or even near the sea, by requiring approval from all Caspian states beforehand.

An energy expert in Ashgabat, meanwhile, believes Russia is focused on winning over Turkmenistan so that all four former Soviet littoral states present a united front against Iran and attempt to overcome its intransigent position on Caspian demarcation.”

This entry was posted on Monday, September 14th, 2009 at 6:24 am and is filed under Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

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