Today, in Moscow, the presentation of the book by the head of the Central Eurasia Research Center of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Stanislav Pritchin "Russia in the Caspian region: in search of an optimal strategy" took place. On the margins of the event, Vestnik Kavkaza spoke with the author of the book about the changes that the Caspian region will face after signing the Convention on the Status of the Caspian Sea.
- Stanislav Alexandrovich, how do you assess the overall significance of the Convention on the Status of the Caspian Sea?
-This is a very serious achievement of the Caspian region. If we compare, say, the United States and Canada, which still share some parts of the Atlantic Ocean, then we have to admit that 22 years for a document to be agreed upon by five independent, completely different states with different political systems is a completely insignificant period of time to find common language not only on the territorial issues but also on the issues of security, transport and environmental protection. From the point of view of the regional security and regional cooperation system, the Convention is an extremely important step forward, which makes it possible to look at the region as predictable, stable and safe for long-term investments.
- How will the Convention affect the development of Caspian tourism?
- For quite a long time, the discussions have been held on the joint tourism and the creation of a free visa zone, where tourists can visit all five Caspian states on one cruise ship for one visa. I think that now when the agreement has been reached at the political level and the laying of such a liner has already taken place, the question is moving from a long-term theoretical discussion to a practical plane. We can expect that in the near future, this kind of tourism projects will be implemented in the Caspian region.
- What prospects have the Convention opened in the field of the Caspian environmental protection?
- At the political level, today we see that there is an understanding of the need to pay very serious attention to the ecology, including the creation of a legal framework that would maximally protect the ecology and set very high standards for the operation of oil and gas and transport projects. In such a situation, we see that the dynamics are quite positive, and now the environmental safety standards are in the focus of the presidents. This is one of the most important issues at the negotiation level.
- How will the energy cooperation of the Caspian states develop further?
-This is a difficult question. Until November of this year, until the United States finally left the nuclear deal with Iran, the Convention allowed relying on the fact that Azerbaijan and Iran, despite the unresolved territorial issues at the sea, will advance in the development of the southern part of the Caspian Sea - the Convention creates an interesting configuration when the delimitation moves to the level of bilateral relations. Already this year, in March, when Iranian President Hassan Rouhani visited Baku, progress in reaching the agreements on dividing the southern part of the Caspian Sea was seen, a memorandum on the joint development of deposits in this sector was signed, that is, there were prerequisites. Unfortunately, the withdrawal of Americans from the deal created a difficult situation - the Western companies fear to enter the region and invest in new projects with the participation of Iran. Given this situation, we cannot expect that new projects in the south of the Caspian Sea, related to Iran, will be on the agenda in the near future.