Andrei Syzranov: "Formation of image of Caspian countries is necessary"
The presentation of the Caspian Expert Club was held in Baku yesterday within the framework of the round table entitled 'Russia-Azerbaijan: 25 Years of Diplomatic Relations: Partnership Strategy' organized by the Political Center 'North-South'. Vestnik Kavkaza spoke with the head of the Center for International Public Policy Studies 'Caspian-Eurasia', Andrei Syzranov, on the sidelines of the event.
- What are the tasks of the Caspian Expert Club?
- We formed it last year, following the results of the second Caspian media forum, which was held in September. Then there was an idea of an informal community of experts on the Caspian countries, who could communicate with each other, meet and implement some projects. We decided that we will develop goals and objectives as a community acting on a voluntary basis. Our goal is to discuss various aspects of life in the Caspian countries - starting from economic to ethno-confessional and sports issues. First of all, we are interested in the sphere of humanitarian cooperation, journalistic and media projects. It is necessary to elaborate further on diversity of our region, different peoples living here, cultures which are getting along peacefully. There are many problems, but for now these problems are only theoretical or potential. 'A sea of friendship' is not just a word combination. But there are risks that need to be discussed, problems that need to be jointly resolved. For this purpose we need to create an expert discussion, try to influence the media image of the region, and offer ideas to the authorities.
- Will the club include experts from all five countries?
- We hope so. But so far it includes only Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. Representatives of the expert and journalistic circles of Iran and Turkmenistan are interested, but that's all so far.
- In your opinion, what are the obstacles for determining the status of the Caspian Sea?
- Each country has its own ideas about the status. Sometimes they are unshakable, like Iran's, sometimes they can change. But the discussion has been going on for many years, and even irreconcilable positions can change. There are forecasts that the decision can be made already this year in Astana. The parties understand that if they do not agree, the risk will increase, and there will be more external factors. I hope that reason will prevail among all five partners.
- Speaking at the round table, you mentioned that the unsettled nature of the Caspian issue could lead to its militarization, the military presence of all countries in the Caspian Sea increased many times for in 25 years. Do you share this opinion?
- Militarization of the Caspian Sea is a legacy of the Soviet era, the Soviet Union and Iran. What we have now has arisen not 25 years ago, but in the middle of the 20th century. Then it was directed not even against Iran, but to the Middle East. The Caspian Sea made it possible to influence the relations with the West through the Middle East. What the five new Caspian countries inherited is the legacy of that time. But the situation has worsened - each country has its own interests, its own armed forces. Solving the issue of the Caspian Sea status will reduce the severity of the issue, but will not solve it, because the countries will still have military potential. The Caspian flotilla will not disappear if the status issue is resolved. Neither the Iranian military naval forces nor the Azerbaijani navy will disappear. But the problem will become less acute.
- Azerbaijan is creating a large port on the Caspian Sea. Baku is interested in Russia (Dagestan) and Kazakhstan having the same ports, complementing each other. What are the prospects for economic, transport and logistic relations in the Caspian Sea?
- We have a port Olya in the Astrakhan region. If there is an economic benefit, ports will be created in Dagestan as well. Turkmenistan has its own interests. If it wants to participate in it, then everything will be good.
- How do you assess the positioning of the Caspian region in the media? Are you satisfied with its coverage?
- In the regional media, yes. But there are more negative assessments in the global media on the Caspian region, which is a matter of concern. I think that within the framework of the Caspian media forum it is necessary to work not only for the Russian-speaking, Azeri-speaking and Iranian-speaking audience, but also for the English-speaking audience. It was suggested that journalists from the Caspian countries should realize that they need to provide information to the world, be responsible for what they say.