Speech by the Minister of Foreign Affairs R.Meredov at the conference “The Caspian Sea – the Sea of peace and friendship”
Dear participants, ladies and gentlemen,
I am glad to welcome the participants and guests of the conference in this hall and wish all of us a successful conference.
Every year on August 12, declared the Day of the Caspian Sea, events are held in Turkmenistan with the participation of national and foreign representatives, primarily Ambassadors and diplomats from the Caspian countries, international and regional organizations, the expert community, and the media.
Their holding is not just a tribute to tradition. This is evidence of the great importance and attention that Turkmenistan pays to the issues of the Caspian Sea, which are among the priorities of its domestic and foreign policy today. Our country is always ready for dialogue with partners on all topics of the Caspian agenda, open to discussing various opinions and constructive proposals.
Caspian Day appeared on the calendar of international events largely thanks to the efforts of Turkmenistan.
As a responsible and active participant in the Caspian interaction, our country from the very beginning sought to give it a systemic character.
In this regard, in November 1996, the first meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Caspian states was held in Ashgabat, which served as the beginning of joint work on the preparation of a draft five-sided document defining the legal status of the Caspian Sea.
This meeting gave impetus to a purposeful negotiation process, with its subsequent withdrawal to the highest state level.
In the spring of 2002, at the initiative of Turkmenistan, the first meeting of the Heads of the Caspian littoral countries took place in Ashgabat, which in fact laid the foundation for long-term five-sided cooperation. In the future, such Summits were held in turn in all coastal states. The next, Sixth Caspian Summit, as is known, was held last year in Ashgabat.
As a result of many years of energetic and respectful cooperation, the Caspian states developed common key principles of policy in the Caspian Sea, and in 2018 the main document, the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea, was adopted. A number of important sectoral agreements were also developed and signed, a significant part of which was initiated by Turkmenistan. And today we can say with confidence that a reliable international legal foundation has been created in the Caspian Sea for a large-scale mutually beneficial partnership, using the huge combined potential of the states located on its shores.
Turkmenistan puts an extremely specific meaning into the well-known and indisputable formula “The Caspian is a space of peace, good neighborliness and cooperation”. Our country stands for a comprehensive approach to the issues of the Caspian agenda, with the inclusion of all the main areas – security, economic development, ecology, shipping, rational use of biological reserves, emergency prevention, and other equally important topics. In this context, a breakthrough event was the holding, at the initiative of Turkmenistan, in August 2019 in the city of Turkmenbashi of the First Caspian Economic Forum, which created the basis for a long-term partnership between public and private business structures of the Caspian countries, international financial institutions, investment funds, the disclosure of huge transport, energy, industrial , trade and logistics resources and opportunities of the Caspian Sea.
At the same time, Turkmenistan aims to develop full-fledged economic cooperation not only with neighboring countries, but also with states outside the region. An example of such cooperation is the work on the formation of transcontinental transport corridors, in particular, the “Caspian Sea – Black Sea”. The corresponding document on this was signed by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Romania in March 2019 in Bucharest.
In the energy sector, Turkmenistan, being committed to the strategy of diversifying energy flows, expresses its readiness to continue cooperation with European partners on the implementation of the Trans-Caspian pipeline project. The idea of its construction, initiated by Turkmenistan, was initially considered by our country not only as an economically and commercially viable project, but also as a key condition for ensuring global energy security and sustainability based on equal consideration of the interests and benefits of energy producers, consumers and transit countries.
Among the above areas of cooperation, a special place is occupied by the ecology of the Caspian Sea, the preservation of its unique biodiversity. It is no coincidence that the leitmotif of the Sixth Caspian Summit was the problem of environmental protection and ecological security. Today it is put forward in the category of the most urgent and causing objective concern.
The most acute problem is the decrease in the area of the Caspian Sea. At present, the sea level is close to the minimum values for the entire time of instrumental observations. In the last 25 years, it has decreased by almost 2 meters, which leads to the retreat of the sea for considerable distances. This is especially noticeable in recent years. The sea has moved hundreds of meters away from its former shores. In the north of the Caspian these figures are even higher.
To date, there are two main concepts of the cause of the change in the level of the Caspian Sea: climatic and geological, the degree of their impact is the subject of scientific research. But there is still no consensus on the reasons for the change in the level of the Caspian Sea, and therefore there is no way to predict with certainty the development trends of this process.
Here I would like to refer to the opinion of many experts who note that the climatic processes occurring in the territory of Eurasia are mainly influenced by the Atlantic and the Arctic, and determine the amount of precipitation and evaporation in the Caspian Sea basin.
At the same time, it should be emphasized that about 130 rivers flow into the Caspian Sea, the main volume of inflow falls on the Volga (80%), Ural, Terek, Kura, Sulak, Samur and rivers of the Iranian coast. The main factors of river runoff are winter precipitation in the basins of the Volga and Ural rivers.
It is important to pay attention to the fact that the regulation of river flow affects the change in the regime of seasonal inflow into the sea and, as a result, the level of the Caspian Sea. As is known, since the 50s of the last century, after the construction of large reservoirs on some rivers flowing into the Caspian Sea, the intra-annual distribution of water flow has changed.
According to the Coordinating Committee for Hydrometeorology, the Caspian Sea, in 2022 the rate of sea level drop increased compared to 2021. On average, this figure is 20 cm. The main reason for this was the reduced flow of the Volga River in 2022 (212 cubic km at the head of the river delta), which was significantly below the norm (238 cubic km). Due to the predicted low water content of the Volga River, a further decrease in the level of the Caspian Sea is expected in 2023.
At the same time, in some places uncontrolled use of sea water is allowed by desalination in large volumes for household needs. All of the above raises serious concerns.
In this regard, there is an urgent need to strengthen scientific cooperation in studying the water balance and determining the causes of fluctuations in the level of the Caspian Sea in order to predict it, which is of great importance both for the preservation of the ecosystem of the Caspian Sea and for the economies of the coastal regions of the Caspian states.
Sea level fluctuations entail changes in biological diversity. Cases of mass pestilence of marine mammals, birds and fish are noted.
So, in 1997, 2000 and 2022, mass mortality of the Caspian seal was observed.
The Caspian Sea is located at the intersection of several migration routes of migratory birds, which makes it possible for them to transmit various pathogens.
The study of this issue should also become the subject of joint research by scientific organizations of the Caspian states, with the involvement, if necessary, of international structures.
Concern about the environmental situation in the Caspian determines the position of Turkmenistan, based on the need to significantly intensify and concretize international cooperation in the field of ecology.
Here we see the United Nations as our main partner in the person of its specialized bodies and institutions.
Declaring its priority positions at the upcoming 78th session of the General Assembly, Turkmenistan proposed the creation of the “Caspian Environment Initiative”, which is designed to become an international platform for substantive and professional interaction on a wide range of issues related to the protection of the environment of the Caspian Sea, the conservation of its biological resources, solution of a number of urgent environmental problems.
Turkmenistan is convinced that today the main task is to maximize the use of the established cooperation mechanisms in the Caspian, reflected primarily in the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea. The key role in coordinating this work is assigned to the foreign ministries of the Caspian states. Frankly speaking, in the five years that have passed since the adoption of the Convention, we cannot state noticeable results here. This situation needs to be changed using the available opportunities and formats. The most important agreements reached by the Heads of State must be fully implemented.
In this regard, I would like to inform you that this year, on the initiative of the Russian Federation, it was planned to hold a Conference of Foreign Ministers of the Caspian states. Turkmenistan promptly responded positively to this initiative and fully supported it. Unfortunately, the meeting has not yet taken place. We hope that it will be held by the end of the year.
We consider it necessary to study at the above meeting, first of all, issues related to the practical implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea and other five-sided documents adopted by the Caspian countries.
In addition, we consider it necessary to identify a platform for developing measures aimed at improving the environmental situation in the Caspian Sea.
Turkmenistan demonstrates by concrete deeds its firm commitment to friendship and cooperation in the Caspian Sea, turning this region into one of the most important centers of mutually beneficial economic development of Eurasia, free from political upheavals, environmental risks, a place for broad constructive partnership in a number of areas of global importance.
Therefore, the need to unite the efforts of the countries of the region, their close interaction with international organizations based on the awareness of the commonality and inseparability of the main goals and objectives, looks particularly relevant today.
Broad, multidisciplinary international cooperation in the Caspian Sea is a unifying factor that objectively reflects the needs of all its participants. In this sense, the Caspian states and international partners have a vast field for joint work.
Our country is ready for it, using the accumulated world experience, centuries-old traditions of good neighborliness and mutual understanding.
I congratulate you on the Day of the Caspian Sea.
Thank you for your attention and wish you successful work.