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Caspian Sea: Exploitation Of Oil Resources

Volume 568: debated on Monday 29 January 1996

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asked Her Majesty's Government:What is the degree of their collaboration with the United States of America in matters concerning oil exploitation and pipeline development in and around the Caspian Sea, and whether this collaboration requires them to act in accordance with the United States' unilaterally declared "embargo" on economic relations with Iran, which they have in general not done, and whether this "embargo" on economic relations with Iran is in accordance with the provisions, etc., of the World Trade Organisation.

The exploitation and development of the Caspian Sea's oil reserves is a matter for the littoral states. The circumstances under which one member of the World Trade Organisation may take measures which affect the trade of another member are set out in GATT Articles XX and XXI.

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether a legal regime for the Caspian Sea and for the exploitation of its resources has yet been agreed; whether in their view the status of that sea and its seabed is a matter to be resolved by the littoral states of the Caspian Sea themselves; whether they consider it appropriate that the Azerbaijan Government should dispose of oil from the seabed of the Caspian without consulting the governments of the other littoral states; and meanwhile under what legal regime the relevant British firms are preparing to engage in exploitation of the oil resources there.

The legal status of the Caspian Sea and its seabed is not clearly defined in international law. There is, as yet, no generally agreed view of its status among the littoral states, to whom it falls to resolve the matter. Her Majesty's Government consider that, whatever the outcome of the debate on the Caspian Sea's status, commitments under existing contracts on exploitation of the Caspian's resources should not be called into question.

asked Her Majesty's Government:Which government is leading Western policy with regard to oil and gas exploitation and pipelines from Central Asia (including the Caspian) on to the world market, in what does this policy consist, and which governments and companies are participating.

The development and export of the region's resources are a matter for the governments of the countries concerned. Various consortia of local and Western companies have been formed, by agreement with those countries in the region directly involved, to exploit the oil and gas reserves of the Caspian and Central Asia.

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they ascertained the views of the Organisation of the Caspian Sea littoral states before supporting BP's plans for exploitation of the seabed of the Caspian Sea, whether Russia and Iran are as yet members of that organisation, and whether their agreement to BP's proposals is assured.

We understand that the proposal for an organisation of Caspian Sea littoral states was advanced at the initiative of Iran, during a meeting attended by the Deputy Foreign Ministers of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iran in November 1995. It was envisaged that the organisation would deal primarily with economic matters and that all the Caspian littoral states would be members. We are not aware of any follow-up to this initiative.