Caspian region could 'easily be packed with arms'

Caspian region could 'easily be packed with arms'

Alexey Vlasov
News.Az interviews Alexey Vlasov, general director of Moscow State University's Post-Soviet Research Centre.

Azerbaijan and Russia are developing inter-regional cooperation and broadening cooperation in general. What do you think is the potential for cooperation at the regional level?

The development of ties between Russian and Azerbaijani regions is of key importance. We can see from statistics that this cooperation is quite substantial. Seventy-one Russian districts are involved in foreign trade with Azerbaijan.

But at the same time, it is necessary to expand inter-regional interaction through developing transport communication, ferry links between Baku and Astrakhan and by improving customs services. Ties between Moscow and Tatarstan and Azerbaijan are an example of successful cooperation, but more examples are needed.

How important is Azerbaijani-Russian cooperation in the Caspian region?

The Caspian region is an important meeting point for the geopolitical and geoeconomic projects of the near future. For this reason, the interest in regional projects is natural and Russia and Azerbaijan must use as effectively as possible their competitive advantages in the sphere of energy, fish resources and other areas of the use of Caspian resources. Moscow and Baku have come to a common stance on the legal status of the Caspian Sea.

Now it is time for a more systematic development of cooperation in other areas. I think the idea of creating a Caspian Economic Cooperation Organization can help the two countries to gain a new impulse in the development of joint projects.

The discussions of Caspian legal status have not been productive so far. Do you think that Iran and Turkmenistan may accept as a basis for the division of the Caspian waters the formula for the division of the contiguous waters used between Azerbaijan, Russia and Kazakhstan?

Though the positions of Moscow, Astana and Baku have been completely reconciled, many issues related to Iran’s position remain unsettled. We can see that the unsettled legal status of the Caspian Sea remains a problem largely in terms of using Caspian resources. Investors understand that if there are so-called disputed fields, there are always risks, which means that some big investors will think very carefully prior to investing huge funds in Caspian oil. This is a problem and it must be settled.

Do you think that the Caspian states will eventually agree on one of the key problems - military presence in the Caspian Sea?

As for the problems of security in the Caspian Sea, in all of my interviews I always reiterate the position that the participation of off-regional players in Caspian dialogue is a negative factor at the moment. It is a really serious problem, especially considering the US position on the Iranian issue, since it is very easy to turn the Caspian Sea from a region of stability and peace into a region packed with arms that poses a threat to the population of the Caspian states.

Going back to the idea of a Caspian Economic Cooperation Organization, I have to note that this project would allow a complex approach to issues of security in the region and to reconcile the positions of the Caspian five step-by-step. And, certainly, I am convinced that the political will of the Russian, Azerbaijani and Kazakh leaders can help solve the tricky issues facing the region.

Leyla Tagiyeva