Ankara, Turkey – Apart the Armenian – Azerbaijan war in Nagorno – Karabakh, another issue that has been discussed in the Caucasus is the re-escalation of relations between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan over the resources in the Caspian. Although an agreement was signed between the two countries in 2008 that no exploration and extraction activities should be carried out on the seabed at the intersection of the maritime borders of Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan until the problem of limiting the Caspian Sea was resolved, the Government of Turkmenistan violated this agreement. Thus, seismic studies were carried out by Turkmenistan in the “Kepez” bed. In addition, a note of protest was presented according to the behavior of Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan in question.
Another point is that this is not the first time the dispute has happened. Because there was a similar incident in 2008. In response to the agreement with Turkmenistan, in fact, Malaysia’s Petronas company started reconnaissance work in the Caspian “Kepez” bed, Azerbaijani border security troops also used their military ships and helicopters. After all, the other side had to retreat.
It is no exception that Turkmenistan also has an agreement with Iran to conduct exploration in the “Kepez” bed. Because recently, Iran also announced that it has discovered a new large oil and natural gas deposit (about 10 billion barrels of oil and 50 trillion cubic meters) in the immediate vicinity of the” Kepez ” deposit. This was the first source discovered in the Iranian part of the Caspian since many years. According to the Iranian administration, the discovery will affect the energy and political balance of the region. However, the numerical capacity of the bed is still not officially clear. The alleged discovery bed coincides with the water borders of Azerbaijan (the southern side of the Caspian part of Azerbaijan). Although Iran does not specify the exact location of the bed, it stated that the bed was located 188 km from Gilan Province and 250 km from Neka province. If we assume that the Caspian is essentially divided into the middle line principle, then this bed falls within the water borders of Azerbaijan.
But this is not the first time that this problem has occurred, and before that, since 2001, BP was removed from the region by Iranian warships while conducting exploratory work in the “Araz-Alov-Orient” deposits. Although Iran for many years adhered to the agreements of 1935 and 1940 on the legal status of the Caspian, after 1991, with the collapse of the Soviets, the Caspian began to claim a new border and supports the concept of dividing the Caspian equally between coastal countries by 20%. But this concept has never been supported by any coastal country, and the Caspian is essentially divided into the middle line principle between the other three coastal countries – Azerbaijan, Russia and Kazakhstan. But a common document signed by five coastal countries still does not exist, and the delimitation problem between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan remains.
It is also possible to explain Iran’s position by excluding it from regional energy projects. Because Western countries, especially the United States, impose various sanctions and embargoes on Iran due to Iran’s alleged efforts to acquire nuclear weapons, and it cannot participate in any energy projects.
If Iran’s claims are true, it could lead to some serious problems. However, this claim will cause a political and military crisis between Azerbaijan and Iran over the maritime border. As a matter of fact, military cooperation between Azerbaijan and Israel has already worsened relations. The main military equipment received as a result of the agreement includes air defense missile and radar systems. Although Iran claims that Azerbaijan’s military cooperation with Israel is aimed against it, the Azerbaijani government has declared that this cooperation is aimed at strengthening the country’s military capacity against Armenia. Although the Azerbaijani side also does not want to go down the path of worsening its relations with Iran, because, according to some sources, Iran also has fingerprints in the serious violation of the ceasefire on the Azerbaijan-Armenia border in the first weeks of June. As such, the rhetoric of Iranian special forces crossing the border in secret and attacking both sides has also emerged. In addition, news of Iran’s secret shipment of military and human aid to Armenia during the armed conflict also appeared in the press. Although Iran supposedly supports the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, it supports Christian Armenia instead of Muslim Azerbaijan from behind the scenes.
Of course, Russia will also use this tension in its own interests. As a matter of fact, any tension between Azerbaijan-Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan-Iran in the Treaty of delimitation will be an opportunity for Russia to prevent the construction and talks of the Trans-Caspian Natural Gas Pipeline. Also, Russia can put the Caspian demarcation card back on the table so that no pipeline can pass under the Caspian Sea unless the delimitation problem is resolved.
Russia took a large ship “Dagestan” out to sea, not to the ocean, raises a question mark in the heads. Dagestan ship is considered one of the largest military (ballistic) ships in Russia, joined the Caspian Navy of Russia. There must be a consistent reason for that. It’s hard to imagine this ship being aimed at coastal countries. But given that relations between western Iran have become tense, it is possible to understand Russia’s intentions. The weight of the warheads of the ballistic missiles on board is 1.5 tons. That is, it is clear that these missiles are only aimed at large targets (most likely land targets). Because there are no targets in the Caspian Sea that can be hit by such a warhead. The ship will be used for any military conflict that may begin in the Caspian Sea. If the United States takes control of Iran, the regimes of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan will immediately face the official Lynx, Azerbaijan and Georgia will become members of NATO, the American Navy will be kept in the Caspian Sea, in this direction Armenia will exit the control of Russia and return Nagorno-Karabakh and exit the membership of the Collective Security Treaty Organization. That is why the conflict between Iran and the West is so dangerous. Russia’s concerns about reducing the rent of the Radar base “Gabala” in Azerbaijan can also be explained in this direction.
This includes the risk of Azerbaijan-Armenia armed conflict. Because the only situation in which Russia is uneasy in the Caspian basin and the South Caucasus is not a possible attack on Iran, but also a possible armed conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia. In order to ensure the security of its interests in its immediate vicinity, Russia has strengthened its military base in Gyumri province of Armenia, close to the Turkish border, the number of military personnel has been doubled, and their families have been sent to Russia. Russia’s military base in Gyumri has a defense system for airstrikes, S-300 missiles and MiG-29 fighter jets. In addition, Russia’s military bases in South Ossetia and Abkhazia have also been strengthened, and the Special Missile division equipped with ballistic missiles in the town of Izberbash in Dagestan, near the borders of Azerbaijan, has been prepared for war. Moreover, the Collective Security Treaty Organization stated that “member states will help Armenia if there is any military intervention in Armenia”.
For the first time, Russia and Iran will conduct joint military training in the Caspian Sea. It is expected that 30 Russian and Iranian warships and helicopters will be used in military training. The training, which will be conducted under the name” Regional Cooperation for a safe and clean Caspian”, is a new indicator of Russian-Iranian strategic cooperation.