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03.02.05 10:02

THE BOOMERANG EFFECT
Canadian Buried Hill Energy's interest in taking part in development of Serdar field in the Turkmen sector of the Caspian Sea caused absolutely inadequate reaction on the western coast of the Sea...

The official statement of Baku and comments by analysts were about two points. The first point was that Serdar is not Turkmenistan's but Azerbaijan's field, which is called Kapaz. The second one, as stated by deputy foreign minister Khalaf Khalafov, was that Ashgabat has "no legal basis to use this field" before an agreement with Baku on the division of the sea is reached.

The peremptory statement of the Azeri side immediately raises a whole number of questions. The main question is - how could Baku officials forget a story that began with the start of development of Azeri and Chirag fields and signing a contract on Promezhutochnoe field (the Soviet name of the field that today is called Serdar by one side and Kapaz by another side)?

In that case, it is worth recalling that talks on dividing the Caspian Sea had just begun when Baku invited foreign companies to develop Azeri and Chirag, and this process, undoubtedly, gained momentum because of disputes between Ashgabat and Baku about ownership rights. Turkmen specialists, based on the USSR maps and international practice on dividing the basins, produced conclusive evidence of the fact that part of Chirag (Ashgabat calls it Osman) field and the entire Azeri (Hazar) field lie within the Turkmen sector of the Caspian Sea.

Ashgabat has repeatedly tried to persuade Baku, using diplomatic means, to stop the development of these fields until the Caspian legal status was established. In reply, Azerbaijan referred to a "historically established practice", implying that it was Baku geologists who found these structures, as well as the border in the central part of the sea that they drew themselves.

When the Turkmen side asked a derisive question as to why then Baku did not claim the ownership right to the fields in Tyumen that were discovered by famous geologist Farman Salmanov, the answer was silence.

The leadership of Azerbaijan, clearly concerned with the diplomatic pressure of Ashgabat as regards Azeri and Chirag, resorted to an original method of turning off the attention from these fields where preparations for the start of their exploitation were at full swing. Baku had hastily signed a contract on the development of Kapaz-Serdar, which is even closer to the Turkmen coast as compared to Azeri. Because Russian LUKoil was also a party to the project, Ashgabat was able to directly talk to Moscow and try to prove groundlessness of Azeri claims to Serdar. The Moscow experts got behind the situation and, having realized the contract's legal vulnerability, recommended LUKoil to cut out. Russian President Boris Yeltsin officially denounced it in 1996, thus burying a consortium.

And later, while on a visit to Ashgabat, the Azeri policy patriarch, Geidar Aliyev, himself said to Niyazov that Baku had no claims to Serdar but, at the same time, would not make concessions on Azeri and Chirag ownership rights. By this, Baku even ignored such nude facts as, for example, geographic location of Azeri, which is 60 km closer to the eastern than to the western coast.

A lot of oil has been pumped out of these fields to the west since that time. Ashgabat, however, has been very persistent in drawing, again and again, the attention to this problem. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan has sent a great number of the official notes to Baku and offices of foreign companies that pump "black gold" from the disputable fields.

The Azeri reaction to Turkmenistan's statement on "inadmissibility of exploration and development of hydrocarbon resources in the disputable fields on the Caspian shelf until the issues of clear delimitation of the sea border between the two countries become an object of a comprehensive international agreement" has perfectly fit in the model of behavior of one famous personage from the Russian fable who is "listening while eating".

And only today that one of the potential partners of Turkmenistan stated its intention to participate in the development of Serdar, which surely belongs to Ashgabat, all of a sudden, they got alarmed and recalled that the two countries still have no border on the Caspian. In fact, this border did not exist at the time when works at Chirag and Azeri were in the very beginning, when the contract on Kapaz, which was later denounced, was signed...

Unwillingly, one will start reflecting on the fact that after the collapse of the USSR some young independent states, in particular those saying they are the most ardent supporters of western models, don't hesitate using very much fashionable there double standards in their practices. They forgot that such an approach may cause the boomerang effect.

Charigeldy AMANOV
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