Caspian leaders start summit in Baku

Thu 18 Nov 2010 10:20 GMT | 14:20 Local Time

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President Ilham Aliyev has welcomed the presidents of the four other Caspian littoral states to a summit in the Azerbaijani capital.

Ilham Aliyev, Dmitriy Medvedev of Russia, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow of Turkmenistan and Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan posed for an official photograph after the welcome ceremony, APA reported.

The summit at the Azerbaijani president's Ganjlik residence is the third summit of the leaders of the Caspian countries. The first summit was held in the Turkmen capital, Ashgabat, on 23-24 April 2002 and the second in Tehran on 16 October 2007.

Russia, Iran against outside influence

Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev called on his fellow Caspian leaders to create a new regional structure, according to Russian news agency ITAR-TASS.

"The achieved level of contacts allows us to start the creation of new formats for more effective work, including on regional security," he told the summit.

"Russia still thinks that a dedicated regional structure is needed to develop economic ties."

The Russian leader warned against a reduction in cooperation: "A three-year interval does not help our dialogue. We should not only meet regularly but also agree on new documents."

"If we weaken our collaboration at any time, be in no doubt that other states that have nothing to do with the region but are interested in appearing here for their own economic and political objectives would like to muscle in on our issues."

The Russian leader's concern about outside influence was echoed by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"A coordinated fight against factors threatening the stability and security of the Caspian and to prevent the appearance of outside players is a very important element of national security and peace in the Caspian region and in our countries," the Iranian leader told the summit, according to Interfax-Azerbaijan.

Russia and Iran are known to be concerned at the USA's logistical and other support for Azerbaijani naval forces.

Caspian status

Ahmadinejad said that work on a convention to determine the legal status of the Caspian should be completed in 2011.

"I propose full and final completion of work on the status of the Caspian Sea next year by continuing sessions in the five-party format," the Iranian leader told the summit.

Talks on determination of the legal status of the Caspian Sea have been continuing almost since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Russia reached agreement in 2003 on the division of adjacent sectors of the Caspian shelf. Azerbaijan has yet to reach agreement with Turkmenistan and with Iran on their Caspian boundaries. The talks are made more difficult by the presence of oil and gas fields in the boundary areas.

The Iranian leader today suggested including on the agenda of the five-party meetings the development of bilateral cooperation on culture in order to "defend the independence and honour of our peoples to counteract political and cultural invasion by the hegemonic systems".

He called on his counterparts to conduct "targeted dialogue and consultations to correct the current world system, create joint shipping companies, provide customs privileges, increase trade, unite systems to transport energy and expand links in tourism, culture and sport".

"Economic cooperation of the member states, based on the potential and resources of national currencies, can reduce vulnerability caused by international economic systems and create new opportunities," he said.

Two documents

Two documents – a joint statement and a Caspian security agreement  – have been submitted to the presidents for signing at the summit.

The draft security agreement is thought to cover combating terrorism, organized crime, the drugs trade, illegal migration, human trafficking, smuggling and arms sales.

The declaration is expected to note the need to speed up agreement on the legal status of the Caspian and to cover regional cooperation, regional stability and the development of interstate relations.




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