Iran, Russia warn outside countries against using Caspian territories for military action

A034374010.jpgRussia, Iran and other Caspian Sea countries strongly warned outside nations on Tuesday against using their territories for launching military action, but they failed to reach an agreement on ways to divide the sea’s vast energy resources.The declaration at the end of the summit of leaders from the five nations bordering the inland sea, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, did not name any countries but it was a clear reference to long-standing rumours that the US might be planning to use Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic, as a staging ground for any possible military action against Iran.

“The parties underline that under no circumstances would they allow other nations to use their territory for waging aggression or other military action against any of the parties,” the declaration said. The countries also offered a sign of support for Iran’s disputed nuclear programme, stressing that any country that is signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty can “carry out research and can use nuclear energy for peaceful means without discrimination,” according to the declaration.

Earlier Tuesday Putin, whose trip to Iran is the first by a Kremlin leader since World War II, warned that projects of energy pipelines crossing the Caspian could only be implemented if all five littoral nations support them.

Moscow has strong opposition to US-backed efforts to build pipelines to deliver Central Asian and Caspian hydrocarbons to the West bypassing Russia. The legal status of the Caspian – believed to contain the world’s third-largest energy reserves – has been in limbo since the 1991 Soviet collapse, leading to tension and conflicting claims to seabed oil deposits.

Iran, which shared the Caspian’s resources equally with the Soviet Union, insists that each coastal nation receive an equal portion of the seabed. Russia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan want the division based on the length of each nation’s shoreline, which would give Iran a smaller share.

Turkmenistan is also vying for the Caspian’s resources. The countries failed to reach an agreement on dividing the Caspian, but they agreed to continue holding regular talks.

Ahmadinejad said the next Caspian summit will be held next year in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Bushehr power plant

Putin refused to set a date for the start-up of Iran’s first nuclear power plant, but stressed that Moscow would not back out of its commitment to complete the project.

After private talks with Ahmadinejad following the Caspian summit yesterday, Putin said revisions to the $1 billion contract to build the plant in the Iranian port of Bushehr are necessary to clarify certain legal aspects and financial obligations by each side.

“I only gave promises to my Mom when I was a small boy,” Putin told Iranian reporters, when asked whether he could promise that the plant that Russia is building would be launched before his term ends next May.

At the same time, he said: “We are not going to renounce our obligations.”

Putin’s careful stance suggested that Russia is seeking to preserve solid ties with Iran without angering the West. A clear pledge by Putin to quickly finish the plant might “embolden” Iran and could complicate international talks on the standoff over Iran’s nuclear programme.

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