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09/11/09

Iran's Regional Potential Is Undeniable

Source: Iranian Diplomacy (August  23, 2009)


Former parliament representative and Caspian affairs expert Elaheh Koulayi discusses the reasons behind non-invitation of Iran to Caspian meeting in Kazakhstan

Since the collapse of Soviet Union, the legal regime of Caspian Sea and Iran's share of its resources have influenced our relations with other littoral states. Under grave threats, the unique ecology of this lake demands constructive cooperation of the bordering states. In the early years after USSR dissolution, Iran's then president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani called for formation of an organization by littoral states in order to preserve Caspian resources; however, with political concerns dominating the Caspian affairs, his initiative was soon forgotten.

Since then, due to Iran's unproductive foreign policy, ample opportunities for regional interaction and playing an influential role in exploitation of the lake's resources were simply lost. In fact, although in compliance with the international law the Islamic Republic of Iran has always insisted on observance of Iran-USSR agreements, other littoral states, i.e. Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and the Republic of Azerbaijan have tried to sign bilateral and trilateral agreements to exploit sub-basin resources of the Caspian Sea. The substantial oil and gas resources of the sea have eroded the importance of its unique ecology and led to the current serious environmental threats, not solvable unless all littoral states decide to have constructive cooperation.

What we are witnessing now is that due to the lack of realistic approaches in Iran's foreign diplomacy, Caspian Sea and its resources have turned into leverage for other neighboring states, particularly Russia, to pressure Iran. In fact, Russia has been increasingly neglecting its post-collapse commitments to the legal regime of the sea.

Iran's absence in the upcoming meeting of littoral states on Caspian Sea's legal regime, which is going to be held in Kazakhstan, reveals that former Soviet republics tend to carry out the Four plus One plan for the Caspian Sea; isolating Iran considering its international state particularly regarding its nuclear program, and solving problems between themselves.

Non-invitation of Iran to the Aktau conference in Kazakhstan is a clear sign of former Soviet republic's intention to marginalize Iran in Caspian affairs. Iran's outstanding role in connecting these countries to free waters can not be neglected; neither can be its potential to solve Caspian issues. The refusal to invite Iran for negotiations over Caspian Sea's legal regime reveals the advantage other littoral states are taking due to the attitude dominating Iran's foreign and domestic policies. Iran's recent domestic unrest and its repercussions on foreign relations has gave these countries a chance to overlook Iran's deserved role and its regional potential, in order to establish their own rules for the Caspian affairs.

Meanwhile, despite the trilateral agreement between Russia, Kazakhstan and the Republic of Azerbaijan over their share of sub-basin resources and marine borders, these countries soon faced problems due to differences over the impact of agreement over their sovereignty. The same problem occurred between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan and has cast shadows of doubt over the prospect of Nabucco pipeline.

Although global and regional powers have made financial and political efforts to isolate Iran and stop it from playing an influential regional role, no formula for appropriate exploitation of Caspian's resources could be actualized without Iran's participation. But such behaviors are another warning for Iran's diplomatic apparatus.


About Iranian Diplomacy - Having been launched into operation in Tehran since February 2007, Iranian Diplomacy is a web-based research and analysis centre for international relations and foreign policy. Iranian Diplomacy enjoys the collaboration and consultation of well-experienced and well-informed Iranian specialists and pundits and tries to feed analysts, researchers, decision makers, authorities and others interested in this field with its scientific and research products aimed at supporting national interests as well as global peace.

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Iran will not permit its Caspian Sea interests to be jeopardized - The presidents of Azerbaijan, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan plan to hold a meeting on the Caspian Sea in the city of Aktau in Kazakhstan on September 14.

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