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Caspian Sea Littoral States Need A Cooperative Organization

Monday, November 22, 2010

Interview with Jahangir Karami, Assistant Professor, Faculty of World Studies, Department of Russian Studies, University of Tehran

Active ImageWhat do you think about the economic development levels and potential of the Caspian states?
 
In this region, there are five countries at different levels of economic development. Russia is a great power in the world and is a member of both the G-8 and BRIC. It has the 12th largest economy in the world by nominal GDP and the 7th largest by PPP. Iran is a regional power, and the economy of Iran is the 19th largest economy in the world by PPP. The other states are at lower levels of GDP, GNP, total population and infrastructure development. But the rate of economic growth in Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan is high and the potential for economic development in Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan is very active. Further cooperation in the region depends on the programs and interest of the stronger countries.
 
The security of external borders, primarily in terms of the Afghan drug threat in the Caspian region, is seen as a high-priority objective. How can we cooperate in finding a solution to the Afghan drug threat?
 
First it depends on security and development in Afghanistan. Second, the countries in the region need to create cooperative processes for security and construct permanent border security facilities around the area. At the Azerbaijan summit, the heads of the five states discussed Caspian Sea security arrangements.
 
Could you please say a few words about the Nabucco gas pipeline project and its role in regional cooperation?
 
The Nabucco project is an attempt to decrease European dependence on Russian energy. The project is backed by several European Union states and the United States. Project parameters deny any role for Iran or Russia but it is difficult to protect regional cooperation.
 
Protecting the environment while extracting natural resources has become a high priority issue after the disastrous April 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Do you think it’s necessary to stipulate common Caspian environmental standards between the regional countries?
 
The oil and gas reserves in the Caspian region have highlighted the state of the environment in this basin. Unfortunately, petrochemical and refining complexes   are sources of pollution, and discharges and spills from oil and gas drilling have had negative impacts on the environment. Thousands of seals that live in the Caspian Sea have died since 2000 due to pollution that weakened their immune systems. In the absence of regional cooperation, exasperated by the still unresolved legal status of the Caspian Sea as well as weak environmental regulation and an inability to enforce them, it is difficult to find an affective approach to protect the Caspian's environment. But there remains an urgent need to protect the Caspian environment for future generations. Regional cooperation will be required to create a single set of Caspian environmental standards. This is necessary to improve the state of the environment in and around the Caspian Sea in coming years.
 
Regional security and the struggle against Islamist terrorism are important challenges the region faces. Could you please evaluate the cooperation of the Caspian countries in this respect? Where do you see the potential for improving cooperation on this issue?
 
A resolution to all of the problems in the Caspian such as drug trafficking, environmental disasters and terrorism depend on forming an organization of cooperation between these five countries. Iran has promoted the creation of such an organization since 1992. Three years ago, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that the Caspian Sea littoral states needed a cooperative organization.

Source: IRAS: http://www.iraneurasia.ir/

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