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18.08.09 22:32

Riddles of high and low tides in the Caspian Sea

Late July - early August was marked by powerful publicity wave in the mass media of Azerbaijan, comparable, if not to tsunami, then to the rough sea tide. A part of this wave also swept over adjacent territories, triggering a lively debate in the mass media of Turkmenistan and Russia.

A statement of the Turkmen Foreign Ministry published in Ashgabat press regarding the state of affairs in the Turkmen-Azerbaijani talks on resolving the Caspian Sea problem gave rise to the waterfall of statements and comments from Azerbaijan.

If you don\'t get this information firsthand and trust only the contents of a secondary wave of comments that bedeviled the Azeri coast, your head will spin because of a loud mixture of selfless arrogance of commentators with recondite fantasticality of their own assumptions.

\"Ashgabat regards part of Absheron peninsula as its territory!\" \"Turkmenistan dances to Russia\'s tune!\" \"Tehran secretly influences Ashgabat in its geopolitical game!\" \"Navy forces of Azerbaijan ready to defend its territorial waters!\" These are just a few press cuttings of the most odious tirades that appeared in Azerbaijani press. Judging by splashes of information waves raging at the coast of Baku, the situation is quite critical, and Ashgabat, either because of its exorbitant ambition or being a puppet in the hands of light-fingered geographic neighbors, is taking this case to almost a serious confrontation in the Caspian area.

A variety of noisy political comments, as well as the magnitude of the troubled wave leave no doubt in some social order of the fresh promotional company. What has really disturbed the political beau monde on the western shore of the Caspian Sea that they indiscriminately employed the most controversial arguments that got under their hand?

Initially, it was a statement by President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov at a regular meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers of Turkmenistan that caused divergent interpretations. This meeting, among others issues, discussed the results of the regular round of the Turkmen-Azerbaijani talks on the delimitation of the seabed and subsoil of the Caspian Sea. The results of these talks, held in Baku, were inconclusive owing to the different positions of the sides on the ownership of oil and gas fields in the central part of the Caspian Sea in the disputed territory between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan.

Summing up the discussions, the Turkmen president noted that the process of searching and agreeing on mutually acceptable solutions in determining the legal status of the Caspian Sea is largely hampered by the special position of Azerbaijan who unilaterally started the development of disputed oil and gas fields \"Omar\" and \"Osman\" and by Azerbaijan\'s claims on \"Serdar\" field, formerly known as \"Intermediate.\" Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov stressed that Turkmenistan does not accept the practice of unilateral actions in the Caspian Sea and, first of all, the development of those areas on which the states concerned did not reach any agreement. Proceeding from the fundamental principles of international cooperation, the Turkmen side sixteen times included the issue of disputed territories in the agenda of the Turkmen-Azerbaijani talks, but the sides failed to reach an agreement.

This situation hinders the full development of natural resources of the Turkmen shelf of the Caspian Sea, hinders the implementation of important programmes for economic development of the region, preservation of ecological well-being of the sea and coast, Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov said. He instructed Vice Premier, Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov to invite international experts - qualified jurists to study the legality of Azerbaijan\'s claims on the disputed offshore fields, as well as the legality of foreign oil companies\' participation in exploration and development of these fields. The results of the legal assessment should be sent to the International Court of Arbitration.

In the line of what was said, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov emphasized that Turkmenistan has no claims on anyone\'s territory, and has always been a supporter of fair territorial delimitation of a unique water reservoir, coordinating the interests of all littoral states on the basis of universally recognized norms of international law and international experience for determining maritime boundaries.

This is the official version of the Turkmen side that was explained in detail and argued in a statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan published in local press the following day. The summary of the Turkmen position sounds simple: if long bilateral talks do not bear fruits, let\'s pass the issue to an independent international arbitration and accept its final decision, no matter how it turned out.

Not being a lawyer or a specialist in international law in maritime delimitation, the author of these lines would not like to follow the example of his Baku colleagues who attempt to withstand the pragmatic logic by a loud noise. Let\'s leave aside the legal side of the issue for a moment and let specialists untangle the intricacies of international legal norms. However, judging by the statements that bedeviled the Azerbaijani mass media, Baku flatly rejects not only the consistency of the Turkmen argument in the boundary dispute in the Caspian Sea, but the very idea of taking a bilateral dispute to the International Court of Arbitration.

One might as well try to find an answer to a simple question: why the Azerbaijani side vehemently opposes an idea of an independent assessment of the situation? There is a well-known faultless rhetorical method. When reasoning is weak, an orator must make his speech very emotional so that its heat conceals the factual weakness of an argument.

It seems that Baku\'s political scientists still use the same faultless method in the current situation of the rise of the Caspian tide. At the same time, the absurdity of arguments is in direct proportional to the desire to get away as far as possible from the essence of the problem.

Here is one of the most amusing arguments. The deposits in the disputed territory can not ever be considered belonging to Turkmenistan because they were discovered and developed by the Azerbaijani oilmen. Of course, one can not dispute the fact that during the Soviet era there worked a lot of excellent specialists in Azerbaijan. But if one thinks hard, one can recall that Azerbaijani oilmen not only took part in the development of offshore deposits of the Caspian Sea, but also helped to open fields in Tyumen region, Bashkortostan, Tatarstan and other Russian territories. Should I now take this fact as Azerbaijan\'s legitimate claims on the Russian oil-bearing areas?

The apogee of peremptory rhetoric aired on the west coast of the Caspian Sea can be the following deadly argument. Even if the international arbitration decides in favor of Turkmenistan, it would still be unacceptable for Azerbaijan, as Baku will simply never recognize the jurisdiction of any international court. What an argument! This can not be because this can not be ever! This quite \"heavy\" argument was once used in the history of mankind...

It is clear that the complexity of problems of the Caspian Sea largely depends on the weight of private interests of financial and logistical nature: big oil - big money. But the global geopolitical issues such as the international legal status of the Caspian Sea can not be solved without a consensus approach, without respect for the right of partners for a reasoned alternative position.

Moreover, the Caspian Sea problems will never be solved by artificially causing muddy and rhetorical high and low tides of as much loud and categorical as unconvincing statements that can only cause mutual distrust and never produce solutions that would satisfy all sides.

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