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Unlike Moscow, which thinks that the Caspian Sea may be divided without the US, official Baku does not rule out US participation in the resolution of problems in this energy-rich region. A set of issues connected with the legal status of the Caspian Sea was the focal point at last week's meeting of deputy foreign ministers of the five littoral states in Baku. In an interview with Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Kalyuzhny speaks about the division of the Caspian Sea.

- Judging from the content of the talks, the countries failed to bridge the gap in their positions on the division of the Caspian Sea and its status. What prevented them from reaching a mutually acceptable agreement in Baku?

- The current round of negotiations may be regarded as a positive step and as a positive contribution to the efforts to determine the legal status of the Caspian Sea. This is the common opinion of all countries involved in this process: Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. I must say that progress is already visible. A framework convention on environmental protection was signed. Now it has only to be ratified. Besides, a convention on meteorology was fully approved in Baku. The sides also bridged the gap in their positions on most issues pertaining to navigation in the Caspian. However, certain disagreements still remain not only with regard to the division of the seabed but also with regard to the use of waters, the use and protection of bio resources, the state borders on the sea, and the security of the region. The movement of military ships of the littoral states also remains a subject of complex negotiations.

We could not and had not even planned to resolve all these problems in Baku. There are issues the resolution of which goes beyond the competence of deputy foreign ministers and even foreign ministers of the five countries. A lot of things may become clear at the upcoming meeting of the Caspian foreign ministers in Moscow on April 6. This initiative was put forth by the Russian delegation, and it was supported by other participants at the Baku meeting.

- In the past you criticized Turkmenistan and accused official Ashgabat of refusing to take part in the dialogue. Has the position of the Turkmen delegation changed since then?

- There has been some progress. And it occurred even before the Baku meeting. I visited Ashgabat recently and had negotiations with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov. To cut a long story short, I can say that we got all our questions answered. And the answers were quite promising. That is good news. Today Turkmenistan has a constructive position on the division of the Caspian Sea and particularly on the boundaries of the national sectors in the Caspian to be based on the modified median line. So now this idea is supported by four of the five countries in the region - all except Iran.

- Last week Deputy Commander of the US European Command, General Charles Wald said the Caspian was in the sphere of US interests and that Washington was ready to help ensure the security of the region. What is your view of the US participation in the resolution of Caspian problems?

- All Caspian problems have to be solved by the countries of the region themselves in a family way, without mediators. An external factor will only create additional problems. It would be interesting if Russia said it had some interests in the Great Lakes region or even appointed its special representative. How would the White House respond to that? We have to understand one thing: the US interest in the Caspian region is associated only with oil. Today the US produces only 240 million tons of oil and imports 600 million tons. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline that is under construction is a purely American undertaking because it will supply oil to America, not to Europe. Each of the five Caspian countries is independent, has a developed economy and can regulate all disputes with its neighbors, including legal ones, and solve security problems. By and large, there is nothing for Americans to do in the Caspian at all, including in terms of security in this vital region of the world.

Interviewed by Rauf Mirkadyrov


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