Iran objects to Caspian seabed pipelines....
Iran has questioned plans to lay pipelines on the seabed of the Caspian Sea, saying the move would cause environmental pollution.
The Caspian Sea is the largest enclosed body of water in the world and is of crucial importance as its littoral states-- Iran, Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan-- enjoy vast oil and gas reserves.
The body of water, however, is polluted by industrial emissions, toxic and radioactive wastes, agricultural run-off, sewage and oil leaks resulting from extraction and refining.
The Caspian environment has also been plagued by a proposal to build The Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline to transfer energy to Europe.
In cooperation with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the five littoral states signed the Framework Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea in 2003.
Article 2 of the convention calls for the protection of the Caspian environment from all sources of pollution, including "the protection, preservation, restoration and sustainable and rational use of the biological resources of the Caspian Sea."
The parties to the convention are therefore urged to prevent and reduce seabed activities and dumping.
A particular challenge for littoral countries will be addressing the potential consequences of the recent growth in oil and gas production. In 2004, regional oil production reached roughly 1.9 million barrels per day, and other oil supplies transit the region via ship and pipeline.
A senior Iranian official, however, responded to plans to increase seabed activities in the Caspian Sea on Thursday and declared that Tehran opposes any action that pollutes the environment.
"Since suitable conditions for energy transit through Iran and Russia exist, there is no need to jeopardize the Caspian Sea ecology by building pipelines on the seabed," asserted Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mehdi Safari.
He was speaking on the sidelines of the 23rd working group meeting of the Caspian Sea littoral states in Baku. The working group has been set up to discuss the legal regime of the Caspian Sea.
The Caspian Sea legal regime is based on two agreements signed between Iran and the former Soviet Union in 1921 and 1940. The three littoral states established after the collapse of the former USSR - Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan - do not recognize the prior treaties and have sparked a debate on the status of the world's largest lake....