Five littoral states sign convention on legal status of Caspian Sea

AKTAU, Kazakhstan (TCA) — At their summit in the Kazakh port city of Aktau on August 12, the presidents of Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan signed the Convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea, after more than two decades of discussions.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the settlement of the Caspian Sea’s legal status “creates conditions for bringing cooperation between the countries to a qualitatively new level of partnership, for the development of close cooperation on different trajectories,” RFE/RL reported.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that the delimitation of oil- and gas-rich Caspian seabed will require additional agreements between littoral states.

Rouhani also hailed a clause in the convention that prevents non-Caspian countries from deploying military forces on the Caspian Sea, saying, “The Caspian Sea only belongs to the Caspian states.”

Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev said the agreement allows for the construction of underwater oil and gas pipelines, as well as setting national quotas for fishing.

The parties agreed to set up a “special mechanism of regular five-party consultations under the auspices of the Foreign Ministries” to implement the provisions of the convention, Nazarbayev also said.

The summit was also attended by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov.

The five countries also signed agreements on trade and economic relations, transportation, and the fight against terrorism in the Caspian.

Debates on whether the Caspian is a sea or a lake have been ongoing since the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991, leaving five countries with shorelines on the inland sea instead of two — the Soviet Union and Iran.

If deemed a sea, the five countries would draw lines extending from their shores to the midway point with littoral neighbors, while classifying it as a lake would mean the resources would be divided equally among those five countries.

The countries have been working on an agreement to resolve the issue since 1996, the Kremlin said.

At stake are resources including trillions of dollars’ worth of hydrocarbons in the seabed, which holds about 50 billion barrels of oil and nearly 9 trillion cubic meters of natural gas in proven or probable reserves.

A draft of the agreement, posted briefly on Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s website in June and obtained by RFE/RL, suggested that the countries would agree in Aktau that the Caspian is a sea.


Times of Central Asia