• Eyal Pinko

Iran and Turkey's military presence in the Caspian Sea

Iran has referred to the "illegality of Turkey's military presence in the Caspian Sea" following the conclusion on September 12 of joint submarine attack and defense group military exercises conducted by Azerbaijani and Turkish special forces.

Said Khatibzadeh, the spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, stated: "According to the Caspian Sea Convention on the Legal Status of the Sea, no foreign state should have armed forces in the Caspian Sea, with the exception of its five littoral states, in accordance with a prohibition. Therefore, Turkey's military presence in the Caspian Sea is illegal. We are conducting an investigation into the matter with the assistance of the Foreign Ministry."

The Azerbaijani government and foreign ministry have not yet commented on the matter, but former Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Tofig Zulfugarov expressed his views.

As Zulfugarov stated: "The majority of countries in the Caspian Basin have signed a number of agreements and made progress toward coordinating a sort of status [for the sea]. This does not apply, however, to Iran, which has a different position than the other countries in the region."

Zulfugarov added that Caspian Basin countries had made statements condemning the militarization of the Caspian Sea and stating that its waters should be used exclusively by ships flying the flags of its coastal states, while also observing: "However, we cannot assert that ships flying the flags of other countries, particularly Turkey, participated in the training of the Azerbaijani Azerbaijani Azerbaijani Azerbaijani Azerbaijani Azerbaijani Azerbai We are referring solely to military exercises in which Turkish soldiers take part. These exercises are part of Azerbaijan's and Turkey's defense policies. They do not contradict any of the issues raised during the process of determining the Caspian Sea's status. We did not violate any Convention provisions because the exercises were conducted on Azerbaijani ships and in Azerbaijani territorial waters. In general, no agreement has been reached on military issues pertaining to the Caspian Sea's legal status... When the issue is resolved, these details will be ironed out."

On September 14, Hikmet Hajiyev, an aide to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and head of the Department of Foreign Policy Affairs presidential administration, met with Iran's Ambassador to Baku Sayyed Abbas Mousavi. However, Iran's concerns about the military exercises were not addressed. "We discussed the latest developments in our bilateral ties as well as issues of mutual concern and interest," Mousavi tweeted.

Azerbaijani and Turkish special forces also teamed up with Pakistani special forces last week for the "Three Brothers 2021" military drills on Azerbaijani territory, which included the use of small arms and grenade launchers.

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