Turkmenistan: Ashgabat Goes Through Caspian Sea Motions
Here’s one for the “exercise-in-futility” department: a governmental commission convened recently in Ashgabat to review Turkmenistan’s stance on Caspian Sea-related issues.
Don’t expect Ashgabat to be leading the charge for a breakthrough in the long-stalled Caspian Sea talks. Judging by a January 30 item distributed by the semi-official Turkmenistan.ru news website, the meeting accomplished very little. Commissioners seem merely to have revisited existing Turkmen government policies.
Just about the most interesting nugget contained in the Turkmenistan.ru report was that meeting participants reaffirmed that “goodwill, equality, mutual respect and healthy pragmatism” are the “guiding principles” of Turkmenistan’s foreign policy.
The five Caspian littoral states – Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan – have been haggling over the sea since the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991. Their inability to settle on territorial limits has hampered the development of energy reserves sitting under the seabed.
A major obstacle blocking a comprehensive Caspian treaty is a dispute between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan over where to divide their respective portions of the sea. Both states are claiming possession of a rich oil field that Ashgabat calls Serder and Baku knows as Kyapaz.
Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Russia have settled their mutual differences concerning the sea. The chief hang-up for a comprehensive pact remains Iran, which continues to insist on all five Caspian states getting an equal, 20-percent share of the sea. Under a proposal advanced by Russia, Iran would be entitled to only about a 13-percent share.
Justin Burke is Eurasianet's publisher.