President Vladimir Putin: Dear Mr President!
Let me begin by thanking the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mr Ahmadinejad, for the invitation and for organising the second Caspian Summit in Tehran.
Russia has always encouraged dialogue among the Caspian states on a permanent basis. Today, this approach becomes a reality. The final draft of the summit declaration provides for regular meetings of heads of the Caspian states and, in the intervals between those meetings, of foreign ministers and their proxies.
I am sure that this mechanism will enable us to discuss and resolve regional problems within the framework of the Caspian Five. And, it opens up new opportunities for the development of mutually advantageous cooperation and partnership in the Caspian region.
I want to emphasise that the enhancement of good relations with the Caspian states is one of the foreign policy priorities of the Russian Federation. We sincerely want the Caspian states to share common bonds, to be united rather than divided. And we believe that the Caspian Sea area should not be completely covered by borders, sectors and exclusive zones.
The smaller the offshore areas we claim for ourselves and the larger the areas in the depths and on the surface of the sea available for use by the Caspian states, the better.
Cooperation and coordination in the management of the sea’s resources, joint use and reclamation will certainly benefit everyone. Moreover, the times require it, and it will be an important advantage for our countries’ competitiveness.
Regarding economic activities on the seabed and the mineral deposits there: they can be carried out within the framework of national mining zones. Their limits in the northern part of the Caspian Sea have been established, and we believe that the interested parties should work out balanced and mutually acceptable solutions for the southern part of the region.
In order to conclude agreements on delimiting the seabed and its mineral resources there is no need to wait for a convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea as a whole to be drafted. We can use the Caspian Five framework.
Its principles of delimitation are based not only on well-established diplomatic traditions, but also on the experiences of many generations of people involved for centuries in navigation, fishing and trade on the Caspian Sea. They are well aware of the uniqueness of this very vulnerable natural monument. And it is no coincidence that our predecessors maintained special shipping and fishing regimes here.
I do not want to preclude the possibility that the draft declaration we have prepared has already decided a number of policy issues. This applies even to issues related to ships’ flying the national flags of the Caspian states, which in my view is very important. It is also important that we acknowledge the need to address all issues, even those that remain unresolved, through dialogue, taking into account the each other’s interests, respecting each other’s sovereignty, and abstaining not only from using force but even from mentioning the possibility of using force. This is very important. It is equally important that we discuss the impossibility of offering one’s own territory to other countries in the event of aggression or any military action against one of the Caspian states.
I believe that the important principles entrenched in this document will create a climate of confidence. In the long run we can use this to determine all the fundamental principles which we shall lay down for many years to come.
In my opinion, we should also adopt a convention on the legal status of the sea, using the rules that exist, that have been recorded in earlier documents and are already adhered to.
Today we believe that the priority areas for cooperation are the provision of security and stability in the region, in the broadest sense of those terms. I have in mind the safety of navigation and the protection of oil and gas facilities, and the joint struggle against international terrorism and extremism.
There are already specific initiatives that in our view deserve the most serious attention. I am thinking of draft stability pact put forward by Kazakhstan and the agreement with Iran on confidence-building measures to increase stability. I have to mention also the Russian proposal to establish a joint naval group for operational cooperation, which we have provisionally designated as Kasfor. There are positive examples of such concerted action on the Black Sea, and we might as well take the best measures that have been compiled in other off-shore waters, in other seas, and use them here.
Very promising prospects for our business relationships and the realization of infrastructure projects have opened up.
Russia proposes to accelerate the development of the international North-South transport corridor. Strengthening the transit potential of the Caspian Sea would contribute to the creation of an additional channel that would link with the Black Sea and Sea of Azov. We are actively discussing this subject with the President of Kazakhstan. We now have different projects in this regard, but, in any case, improving communication between the Caspian Sea and the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea basin is surely a promising endeavour.
I should note that the Caspian Sea is rapidly becoming one of the world centres for the extraction and export of hydrocarbons, but it also has unique biological resources. Therefore, the sharp decline in the population of sturgeon, including in the rivers flowing into the sea, is perhaps the most obvious indicator of a region in environmental distress. In our view, we must strike a reasonable balance between developing oil and gas production and consolidating the ecosystem. Almost all our colleagues mentioned this — particularly Mr President of Azerbaijan — and I could not agree more.
Environmental security should be the standard by which we evaluate all projects in the Caspian Sea, particularly in the area of energy development and transportation. I believe that projects that could be particularly damaging to the environment in the entire Caspian Sea region should not and cannot be implemented without the prior discussion in the framework of the Caspian Five and the adoption of a consensus decision reached in the common interests of the Caspian Sea.
It has been five year since our first meeting in Ashkhabad. During this time, there have been extensive consultations on the entire range of Caspian issues. Today the major challenge facing us is to give an impetus to the negotiating process on a number of important topics. Among them, I repeat, are addressing the legal status of the Caspian Sea, shipping and fisheries, military activities and the protection of the environment. I am confident that such an all-encompassing task is in our power to perform, particularly because now all the Caspian states are involved in facing up to this challenge.
I thank you for your attention.