EghtesadOnline: Iran on Monday called on the Caspian Sea littoral states to intensify efforts to boost cooperation, particularly in the fields of economy and environment, and offered to help achieve this goal despite US sanctions.
"Now that a convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea has been signed, our first priority should be to expand our economic and trade cooperation, especially through establishing effective links between the private and public sectors in the Caspian region," First Vice President Es'haq Jahangiri told the First Caspian Economic Forum, ISNA reported.
The meeting, held at the Avaza tourist zone near the city of Turkmenbashi in Turkmenistan, was aimed at providing a platform for discussions on the development of economic, trade and transport cooperation among the five littoral Caspian states: Iran, Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan. August 12 is marked in the region as the Day of Caspian Sea.
In August 2018, Iran and the four ex-Soviet nations signed a new convention on the legal status of the resource-rich Caspian Sea, which dispute lingered between the five neighbors for almost three decades, according to Financial Tribune.
The dispute began with the fall of the Soviet Union, which had a clearly defined Caspian border with Iran, with each owning 50% of the sea.
Jahangiri said another important priority, which requires collective efforts, is protecting the environment of the world's biggest enclosed body of water, which he called a "shared legacy".
Elaborating on the need for stronger economic cooperation, the first vice president said the volume of trade among Caspian Sea littoral states is increasing, but does not reflect the level of their political relations.
"The trade volume could increase if governments make efforts toward empowering the private sector, facilitating business visa procedures and reducing trade tariffs or bringing them to zero within the framework of bilateral agreements or agreements involving all the five states," he said.
“There is great untapped potential for collaboration among the littoral states in various fields, including tourism, customs, transit, shipping, development of ports and trade in port equipment.”
Jahangiri noted that interacting with neighbors, preventing tensions and contributing to regional security and stability is high on Iran's foreign policy agenda.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran believes that Central Asian prosperity helps boost stability, security and peace in the region and has played an effective role in expanding regional economic cooperation and implementing development projects in Central Asia over the past three decades," he said.
He stressed that stronger legal mechanisms are needed for further expansion of economic ties between the Caspian countries.
“Iran, given its strategic location and vast resources, can provide great support for joint projects in the Caspian region and Central Asia, including in the energy sector, despite facing US sanctions,” he said.
Jahangiri also criticized the presence of foreign forces in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf, saying that they are the source of instability and insecurity in the region.