Caspian states warn outsiders against military use of their area

Russia, Iran, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan – the five nations at the Caspian Sea Summit in Tehran have warned outside countries not to use their territory to launch military operations. This comes amid growing concern of possible U.S

All the five leaders of the Caspian Sea border states have agreed on the fact that the meeting was very important.

Vladimir Putin described its results as positive and said that the sides “have made progress in defining the legal status of the Caspian Sea”.

The signing of the declaration can now be seen in a not too distant future. And the legal status of the Caspian Sea remains undecided since the break up of the Soviet Union. 

At a media briefing after the meeting, the Russian leader commented on other summit results, stressing several points.

Firstly, shipping on the Caspian Sea should be conducted only under the flags of the Caspian states. The states also agreed on intensifying economic co-operation, and agreed with the Iranian President's proposal to set up corresponding economic organisations.
 
As a first step, an economic conference of the Caspian states will be held next year in Russia. Trade with Iran is going to be increased, and the Caspian states re-affirmed their adherence to the non-proliferation of the nuclear weapons as an absolute condition, mentioning that all Caspian states have the right to develop peaceful nuclear programmes though the issue will be discussed further on Tuesday.

The Russian leader urged that the Caspian Sea should be a uniting rather than a dividing factor. He also suggested it should be used for the greater good of all the nations that surround it.
 
“We are confident that the Sea should not be all covered with national borders, sectors and exclusive zones. The smaller the part is of the sea occupied by individual nations, and the greater the part is of the sea that is available to all Caspian nations – the better,” said President Putin.

Caspian Sea, satellite photo
Caspian Sea, satellite photo


All of the leaders seem to be united in this idea that the Caspian Sea should be used to a common benefit. Meanwhile, most of the leaders are focusing not merely on the legal status of the Caspian.

The exploration of its seabed is very important to all the five states, as well as its ecological security.
 
Vladimir Putin also said that any decisions on the Caspian Sea’s status should be reached jointly, avoiding military force in the Caspian region.
 
“It is important that the declaration we have prepared says that all problems should be solved through dialogue, considering each other’s interests and respecting each other’s sovereignty – without using force or even mentioning the possibility of using force,” the Russian leader stressed.

To listen to President Putin’s speech at the meeting with the leaders of Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, please follow the link.

It is the second meeting of this kind. The first one was in Ashgabat about five years ago. A number of agreements are expected to be signed at the summit. Leaders have scheduled their next summit to be held in Azerbaijan next year.

Iran nuclear programme issue

Iran's nuclear programme was also discussed during the visit of Russia’s President to Iran.

Vladimir Putin has met his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and confirmed that Russia will finish construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant.

At the moment Russia has halted all the works concerning the construction of the station.
Speaking to Iranian journalists after the meeting, Mr Putin explained that it only happened because of business, but not political reasons, as Iran has huge debts which have be paid first.

“In regards to Bushehr, I would like to point out that Russia was the only country to take on the responsibility to fulfill this project. The German partners have started it, but then pulled out. And this is where the technological difficulties began. The German equipment is out of date but is still there. There are also legal difficulties. Iran has signed the agreement not only with Russia but with other countries including North Korea. North Korea failed to fulfill its obligations to provide equipment, so Russia had to find those missing parts. This resulted in delay in construction,” President Putin commented.

The Russian leader has also called for patience in the way the world deals with Iran and its nuclear programme.

“I think that the nuclear programme is the main purpose of the president’s visit to Iran. Today all countries in the world are concerned about this problem. The past week was very tense for Vladimir Putin. He has met Sarkozy, Gates and Rice. Today he is in Germany meeting Angela Merkel. The nuclear problem was the main concern of all these meetings,” commented Moscow-based political analyst Vladimir Sazhin. 

Tehran's uranium enrichment programme has long been a source of concern to the international community. 

While Iran says it intends to generate power so it can export more oil and gas, Russia, a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council, has backed two sets of mild sanctions against Iran to encourage it to co-operate with the International Atomic Energy Agency. 

Moscow, though, says it will not back further sanctions unless the IAEA says Iran is not co-operating or proves it is working on weapons.

Vitaly Naumkin, the President of the International Centre for Strategic and Political Studies in an interview for Russia Today said that “the Russian view is that not only military action is counter-productive, but even the escalation of sanctions, especially unilaterally, is absolutely counter-productive. Only dialogue. There is a hope that the Iranians can listen to Russia and the others, and to be transparent and open in their relationship and their dialogue – first of all with the IAEA and the international community in general.”

Bushehr nuclear power plant is the first of its kind in Iran and is estimated to be worth over $ US 1.3 billion. 

Recently, construction has halted as Moscow claims Tehran has an outstanding debt for the work already done in Bushehr. However, local officials are certain the matter will soon be resolved. 

Iran's nuclear programme is likely 
            to dominate the talks
Iran's nuclear programme is likely to dominate the talks


“We have three problems: the first one is technical and is currently being looked at and soon will be solved. The second is financial which is also being solved. And the third is political. Russia is under pressure from the United States, which doesn’t want Russia to provide us with fuel,” says Hossein Moghaddam, Iranian political analyst.

Coming as it does against a backdrop of increased EU pressure on Iran, the Russian leader's visit to the country gains even more significance.

In this respect, the relationship between the two countries might have been destabilised by reports of the assassination plot. According to these reports, during his stay in Tehran Vladimir Putin was to be targeted by three militant groups teaming up and using trained suicide bombers. 

However, the Iranian Foreign Ministry dismissed the allegations as 'ungrounded', although several Russian officials say the claims are not to be dismissed. Nevertheless, the allegations have not altered the President's plans. 

Despite claims of the cooling of relations between Russia and Iran, the historic visit of a Russian leader to the country is seen by most as a step towards a better common understanding, with Tehran's newspapers welcoming the Russian leader with a frontpage claim of a leap in bilateral ties.

Public opinion poll on Iran-Russia relations
 
The Moscow-based Yury Levada Analytical Centre has published a poll, where Russians were asked to answer several questions regarding Iran-Russia relations.
 
Answering the question whether Russia should carry on co-operation with Iran on its nuclear programme, nearly 40 per cent of people answered positively, 28 per cent – negatively, and 34 per cent abstained.

As far as possible air strikes on Iran are concerned, 70 per cent don't consider it to be the solution, and only eight per cent are for the extreme measures.