Some Notes on the Caspian Energy and Ethnic Conflicts in the Caucasus

in Iran and the Caucasus
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Abstract

In the past two decades, the transportation of Caspian oil and gas resources to the international markets has been one of the most controversial and pressing issues in regional politics. Possibly, this is due to the fact that it is more than just an economic problem, having also a visible security and geopolitical aspect. Hence, pipeline competition has fuelled both rivalry and cooperation among existing and potential transit countries. Particularly, the routes through the Caucasus are the most problematic, as the transit corridors through Russia, Azerbaijan Republic, Georgia, and further Turkey have faced with various ethnic conflicts in these countries. In the 1990s, these conflicts played a crucial role in increasing the risk of Caspian oil transit through the Caucasus and Russia. The ethnicities in this region have used the pipeline politics more as a bargaining chip vis-à-vis their central governments for a better position, and less as a pretext for separation. The international political environment, such as the September 11 attack on the U.S. soil and the following global “war on terror” led by the United States, have already undermined such ethnic bargaining power against the governments and have shifted the separatist trends to an inferior position. This paper is a brief re-examination of the situation concerning the energy transit and the ethnic conflicts in the region.

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