30/10/2007, Boris Antsipherov
The second Caspian summit of Caspian states leaders held recently in Teheran did not become definitely a breakthrough. However it could be hardly called a failure.
Many analysts both Kazakhstani and foreign characterized it as a meeting with no success. There is even an idiomatic expression which calls the summit as "a summit of deferred problems". One may agree with this statement but not by all means.
Recent events happening in the region around the problem with Kurds could confirm the thesis (Kurds as foreign mass media reported stated that they could start diversionary acts on oil pipelines). If look on this widely, the summit's results could be called an extremely successful for Kazakhstan.
As known, the adopted on the results of pentalateral meeting declaration states that only sea shore states have sovereign rights for the Caspian Sea and its resources.
To finally define the new legal status of the Caspian Sea, agreed regimes of shipping, fishing and navigation of "exclusively Caspian states" should act in its area of water. These regimes should be based on realization of sovereign rights of 5 sea shore states.
The last statement is extremely important as for relations between sea shore countries as for its communication with non-Caspian states.
It is obvious that it is firstly about the US. The second is about the US main directions of interest in the region such as American companies' participation in oil and gas projects and military-strategic plans of the US towards Teheran. The last thing is not yet clear: sometimes the US (and by the last time traditionally peaceful to this region France) give signals about possible start of military campaign against Iran, sometimes these statements are called back.
But the overall picture remains tense during all last years. Americans still do not exclude Iran from the list of countries that form "evil axis". And regardless from the fact that foreign companies work on the shelf at Azerbaijani and Kazakhstani shores, the political situation around the region looks more complicated.
This is not healthy for investment projects in extraction and transportation of oil. If at once the spring is broken and, Lord forbid, the military conflict between the US and Iran starts, we will not see for a long time Kashagan project incomes.
And in such situation none could claim investors. There will be a question of the project safety in the whole. Iran is not Iraq. There will not be fast success. And oil fields together with its infrastructure in the Caspian Sea will be threatened by constant Iranian threat of "punishment hammering".
Of course, foreign companies' interests could suffer as well. For in any case for them it is not a life-death question. It is vice versa for CIS Caspian States, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and especially for Kazakhstan.
Not yet developed Kazakhstani oil and gas reserves are concentrated in the Caspian shelf. In other words, vitally important resources region could potentially become a battle-front zone.
Even existing only in theory such an option is a minus for the country that pretends to enter in top world leading countries in oil extraction especially in "a package" with Kashagan development project delay and recent changes to investment legislation (we do not evaluate here how much they are proper themselves).
The declaration adopted on the second Caspian summit very much becomes a contrast to such an option. Pre se, it is clear although diplomatically veiled support of Iran in its political confrontation to the US.
This objectively works for Kazakhstani interests. At this Astana itself does not take any special obligations. It is hard to be agreeing with conclusions done by some of Russian mass media that the summit's results give reasons to talk over "a start of the creation of new regional economic and defense union".
Astana signing the Caspian declaration nevertheless leaves itself a room for maneuver which is necessary for it including decision-making in infrastructure constituents of energy projects.
Picture by http://img.rian.ru