Ashgabat, 28 September 2014 (nCa) — The fourth summit of the heads of Caspian states will take place in Astrakhan, the Caspian port city of Russia, on 29 September 2014.
The Caspian countries are expected to sign three important agreements during the summit. Turkmenistan has played a key role in finalizing the text of all three of these documents:
- Agreement on conservation and sustainable use of water and biological resources of Caspian
- Agreement on cooperation in prevention of emergency situations in Caspian and elimination of their consequences
- Agreement for cooperation in the field of hydrometeorology of Caspian
The draft convention to determine the legal status of Caspian – whether it is a sea, a lake or a unique body of water – is also expected to clear all hurdles and come up for adoption at the next summit that will take place in Kazakhstan in 2015.
Attainment of accord among littoral states on any issue related to the Caspian is an uphill task and not just because of the mutual bickering – the United States casts a dark and ugly shadow on the entire mega-region including the Caspian.
Nevertheless, Turkmenistan has contributed hugely to make this summit a success.
Role of Turkmenistan in preparation for summit
At a cabinet meeting Friday (26 Sep), President Berdymuhamedov listened to reports by some top officials, outlining the role of Turkmenistan in preparation of documents that will be presented for approval during the summit.
Here is the summary:
- Ten meetings of the expert groups and special representatives of the Caspian countries took place to prepare for this summit – of these, five were hosted by Turkmenistan.
- Turkmenistan played a significant role in bringing together the positions of the littoral states on the text of the draft convention to determine the legal status of the Caspian – this convention will help create roadmap for cooperation in crucial areas such as security, economy, transport, and management of environment and biological resources.
- The 36th meeting of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Caspian Convention that took place in Ashgabat in April 2014 paved the way for streamlining the text of the convention to make it acceptable for all the littoral states.
- Turkmenistan has done tremendous work in mapping the flora and fauna of Caspian – there are 2543 species in Caspian, of which: flora 29%, and fauna 71%.
- There are 869 biological life forms along the Caspian coast: more than 300 species of birds, and 53 species of fish.
- Turkmenistan has gradually strengthened the legal framework to ensure the environmental integrity and safety of biological resources of Caspian. All the new projects in Turkmenistan, including those along the Caspian coast, are subject to tough scrutiny by the commission that is led by the ministry of nature protection.
- To develop the draft agreement on the preservation and sustainable use of the biological resources of the Caspian, the littoral states had seven meetings at the expert level – of these, six were held in Ashgabat.
- Turkmenistan advocates that there should be unanimous agreement on the quotas for the exploitation of biological resources of the Caspian, including sturgeon. Turkmenistan also calls for establishing such quotas under international legal standards, with provisions for combating illicit harvesting and trafficking, and exchange of information among the littoral states.
- The draft agreement on conservation and sustainable use of the biological resources of the Caspian was agreed to by the littoral states during the experts’ group meeting in Moscow in August 2014. The adoption of the document at the summit, therefore, would be a matter of formality only.
- Turkmenistan and Russia signed in September 2013 an agreement on maritime trade routes. Similar agreements are expected to be signed with Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan during this summit.
- Turkmenistan is also playing active role in strengthening cooperation among the Caspian seaport authorities. The third meeting of the seaport authorities took place in September 2010.
- Turkmenistan is the current chair (2013-2014) of the coordination committee for hydrometeorology of Caspian (CASPCOM).
- During the 18th meeting of CASPCOM in November 2013 in Ashgabat, substantial work was done on the draft agreement on cooperation in the field of hydrometeorology – this agreement is on the table for adoption during the current summit.
- During the Caspian summit in Baku in November 2010, Turkmenistan floated the idea of agreement on cooperation in prevention of emergency situations in the Caspian and elimination of their consequences. Turkmenistan spearheaded with patience and flexibility the development of the draft agreement that will hopefully be approved collectively during the summit.
- Turkmenistan is already gearing to streamline its own laws to bring them in line with the provisions of the agreements that are expected to be signed during the summit.
- Turkmenistan initiated and successfully hosted the first Caspian summit in April 2002 in Ashgabat.
- The second summit was held in Tehran in October 2007 and third summit took place in Baku in November 2010.
Position of Turkmenistan on legal status of Caspian
It appears that Turkmenistan would prefer to define the Caspian as a special body of water, to be governed with some scaled-down provision from the international law on sea in some areas and a condominium approach (lake) in others.
At the core of Turkmenistan’s approach to this issue is the willingness to exercise flexibility and accommodate everyone’s point of view while protecting own interests.
For delimitation of the Caspian, Turkmenistan would favour:
- 12 nautical mile national boundary
- 13 nautical mile exclusive economic zone (beyond the 12 mile national boundary)
The movement of merchant vessels and war ships through these waters would be as per international law.
President Berdymuhamedov, during a cabinet meeting Friday (26 Sep) reiterated the resolve to keep working with the littoral states to find an optimal solution. He said that the convention [on the legal status] would create the perfect environment for the productive international cooperation in the Caspian.
The inability of the littoral states to agree on the legal status of Caspian has been a hindrance in working together on regimes for conservation and sustainable use of biological resources, prevention of poaching, clarity in the rights and responsibilities in commercial shipping, tourism, and the development of the seabed and subsoil hydrocarbon resources.
Turkmenistan managed to convince the other states to detach some of these issues and deal with them separately, obviating the need to wait for agreement on the legal status of the water body.
As a result, the Caspian countries are likely to sign agreements during this summit on the management and sustainable use of biological resources and prevention and elimination of emergencies at sea. Of the 12 meetings related to these agreements, 10 were hosted by Turkmenistan.
The agreement on hydrometeorology that will be signed during the summit, also testifies the relentless efforts of Turkmenistan to reach consensus on shared issues. It will be far reaching in scope, enabling the littoral states to work jointly to forecast, analyze and assess the climate and weather conditions and patterns.
Woven into all of its initiatives is Turkmenistan’s genuine concern for the protection of the delicate eco-system of the Caspian. In addition to several other steps in this direction, Turkmenistan has offered to host the Caspian Environment Forum as a permanent body to deal with the environmental issues of the Caspian basin.
Turkmenistan is firmly against the militarization of the Caspian. This includes the encouragement of collaborative efforts to ensure non-proliferation and disarmament in the Caspian region.
Turkmenistan calls for the creation of a permanent mechanism of political consultation to develop common approaches on the issues related to peace and security, and prevention of conflicts.
During the current session of the UN General Assembly, Turkmenistan has offered to host, under the auspices of the United Nations, a forum in 2015 in Ashgabat to discuss peace and security in Central Asia.
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