East, West jockey for position in Caspian region
University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center
Institute for International Business and
Global Executive Forum
Center for International Business Education & Research
Giandomenico Picco is renowned for his negotiating skills and knowledge of people and
politics in the Middle East. Five nations have honored him with their highest civilian
awards. A 20-year senior official of the United Nations, Picco was the secret U.N.
negotiator who ended the Iran-Iraq War, and convinced the Soviets to leave Afghanistan.
He led the negotiations with Islamic Jihad that resulted in the release of Tom Sutherland
and other hostages. After leaving the U.N. he founded GDP Associates, a strategic
consulting firm that helps companies set up operations in the Middle East.
Oil and politics - historically a volatile mix - are fueling dissension in the Caspian Sea, according to
Giandomenico Picco in his address to the Global Executive Forum. "The Caspian Sea region has more
political than oil value; however, in the imagination of the world it has become the great mecca of
Estimates of the Caspian Sea's oil potential vary, primarily because most of the region remains
unexplored. The Azerbaijani International Operating Company (AIOC) estimates these reserves at 12
billion barrels with another 25 billion barrels to be discovered. The U.S. Energy Department puts proven
oil reserves at 15.4-29 billion barrels with a possible 163 billion barrels in further reserves.
"The underbelly of Russia can develop in a way that, politically and economically, will use and exploit
these energy resources," said Picco.
There are five countries bordering the landlocked Caspian: Turkmenistan, Russia, Azerbaijan,
Kazakhstan and Iran. How the wealth will be divided among these countries, and under whose sphere of
influence the region will fall, is part of the ongoing discord in Central Asia.
"The controversy concerns not jus