The Summit on the legal status of the Caspian Sea ended at the beginning of October after being held in Astrakhan, Russia. But renewed signs of optimism from convention attendees, released earlier this week, show that the breakthroughs on legal negotiations have taken with the five littoral states. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated that the next convention would see official signatures to these “principles” by all five states. Despite the debates over energy resources, these agreements are mostly related to security, as all agreed for there to be no armed forces of outside countries within the Caspian Sea zones. Additionally state zones were delineated, including sovereignty and fishing zones. Coastal maritime space in the range of 15 miles was agreed, as well as 10 additional “fishing” miles.
The main unresolved issue however, is the construction of trans-Caspian pipelines, in particular how submarine pipelines should be constructed by neighboring states. As no side will commit to an agreement on pipelines until territory is firmly established (thus lowering the cost of construction). The summit’s agreements have been written and are being reviewed by foreign ministries in preparation for the next legal summit, for which a date has yet to be announced.
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- Members of Tajikistan’s security services seized more than 10 kilograms of heroin in busts around the 23 of October. The seizures were carried out in distinct portions of Tajikistan, including more than half in the capital, Dushanbe. The fact that seizures were made far from Tajikistan’s border with Afghanistan indicates that traffickers are having success smuggling the narcotics in, despite pledges by the United States to contribute to border security operations.
- The United States has surpassed Russia as the largest non-OPEC oil producing state. The U.S. Energy Information Agency released a report showing that not only has the US surpassed Russia, but estimates show that American oil will be exported at greater rates than Russia hydrocarbons for the next 25 years. US oil production will increase to 14.2 million barrels per day by 2020, whereas Russian production will stay around 10.7 barrels per day.
- Construction of the controversial TAPI pipeline will finally begin in 2015, claimed Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov at a meeting of the Turkmen “Council of Elders.” The pipeline will connect Turkmenistan’s fast oil fields with Pakistan, which is energy starved and in dire need of supplementing its oil and gas supplies.
- Russia has entered into negotiations with Tajikistan over the latter’s accession to the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union. The Russian parliament’s speaker of the house issued a statement that detailed Russia’s desire to see Tajikistan join the burgeoning economic block, citing “integration” as a priority. If Tajikistan were to join, it would constitute the fourth such accession to the EEU, following Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Tajikistan may prove more difficult to attract, as officials in Dushanbe currently receive considerable funds from China.
- President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan arrived in Turkmenistan yesterday to visit with his Turkmen counterpart Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov to discuss “development of bilateral relations, regional, and international problems.” Security is likely to be a concern as well, as both share a border with northern Afghanistan. Ties have improved since the death of Turkmenbashi, Saparmurat Niyazov in 2006.
- Azerbaijan has engineering a public lobbying push in Washington DC, hiring a veteran Republican Party adviser and political strategist Liz Mair to boost its image. The strategy is to generate news coverage to “impact various US government officials as well as the US general public, signing a $50,000 a month contract with the Podesta Group, and the hiring was reported by Politico Influence yesterday. Mair was then registered under the US Foreign Agents Registration Act as a representative of a foreign power.