Expert: Caspian Economic Cooperation Organization has no right to life in current situation

Day.Az: Recently Russia’s Ambassador to Azerbaijan Vladimir Dorokhin said that three of the five Caspian littoral states – Russia, Kazakhstan and Iran- support establishment of the Caspian Economic Cooperation Organization. Azerbaijan also favors establishment of the organization saying that status of the Caspian Seamust be solved first and foremost. How do you assess Azerbaijan’s position?
Rustam Mammadov: I think appearance of such an organization does not suit Azerbaijan at the moment. I believe if the CECO is founded to fulfill the mission of signing international agreements with countries outside the region on behalf of all littoral states, it is natural that Azerbaijan will not be satisfied with this option.
Apparently, the idea of launching such an organization pursues exactly this goal. Since this issue contains such a fundamental point, Azerbaijan does not favor establishment of such a union. Obviously, such a coalition would not serve Azerbaijan’s interests on backdrop of the country’s current extensive economic links with non-regional countries in the Caspian Sea.
Russia’s position is that process of such economic cooperation will pave a way to solve political problems of the five littoral countries. How do you assess this approach?
These are empty words. The CECO has no right to life. It is clear that such an organization could easily turn into another attempt to keep some countries under supervision of others. Whatever warm relations the neighbors may have, each of them have their own interests. Therefore, a full consensus on this idea will be very difficult to achieve.
Then why does Kazakhstan seem to support Iran in this issue?
It is clear that Kazakhstan simply has nothing to do in terms of the conditions of regional location, and Iran, of course, will support Russia as an ally in such endeavors. But speaking frankly, even formal establishment of the CECO will not mean too much for its initiators.
In particular, what major economic interests do Islamic Republic of Iran have in the Caspian Sea? None. Trade and passenger? That’s all. Therefore, Iran favors it without hesitation. But Azerbaijan has something to lose if the issue of joint decision-making in CECO is suddenly raised. So the situation is obvious, I think.
All five sides have long said that the third Caspian Summit will be held in Baku, but nothing concrete has been said, even an approximate date is not called. Do you think it indicates that coastal states are still far apart in approach to delimitation of the sea and development of a comprehensive convention on its legal status?
I believe today they have become more distant from each other in this regard. It is clear the situation is complicated. That is why it is not appropriate to raise the issue of creating CECO. To reach the normal situation, the Caspian countries need to solve many difficult issues among themselves. In this sense, and third Caspian Summit is not relevant at present. Because, nobody really needs it including Azerbaijan. CECO will turn into a half-dead structure amid existing contradictions between states.
In this case, what will happen in the Caspian Sea in the coming years given outstanding problems between the five neighbors?
For example, Moscow believes that everything will be normal sooner or later. This approach is absolutely incomprehensible for me. But other regional states are aware that there is no turning back, and that whatever happens, it must be based on existing conditions. I see no real basis for cooperation among all of them at the moment. I think the Caspian countries will have to suffer for a long time.
Then will each of the countries build up its military potential of marine destination?
I am sure we will see further growth of the armed forces in the Caspian Sea which will be fraught with complicated consequences. Symptoms of such a future reality are seen now.