By Amina Nazarli
The final decision on the determination of the Caspian Sea legal status may close to its final, as sides are likely to agree on the most disputable issue in the region.
Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov said that the final document on the status of the Caspian Sea is agreed by 80 percent.
The controversy over the legal regime of the Caspian Sea, the largest lake on the Earth, began with the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The five littoral countries -- Azerbaijan, Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan -- cannot share it between each other for more than two decades.
The existence of immense offshore hydrocarbon resources in the Caspian Sea along with its strategic location on a geopolitically significant transport route have made it into a top priority in the foreign and domestic policies of the bordering countries.
Mammadyarov told RIA Novosty agency that the parties formed a dialogue and atmosphere of mutual understanding.
“To determine the legal status of the Caspian Sea, a working group is operating at the level of deputy foreign ministers. Despite the fact that it was not possible to reach a final consensus so far, a dialogue and an atmosphere of mutual understanding formed between the parties. About 70-80 percent of the final document has already been agreed,” he said.
The 50th meeting of the special working group on the development of the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea at the level of deputy foreign ministers of the Caspian states is scheduled for September in Iran.
The Caspian Sea is "not a dividing, but uniting wealth," according to the minister.
“A positive fact is that the Caspian states were able to approach the solution step by step, joining forces. Despite the fact that the legal status has not yet been determined, a legal framework has been formed on cooperation in the conservation of the flora and fauna of the Caspian Sea, mutual assistance in emergency situations, in the fight against terrorism and other areas. This gives us ae basis for further progress on the issue of the ultimate definition of the legal status of the Caspian Sea,” Mammadyarov said.
The Caspian states signed a Framework Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea in November 2003 and today most of the issues on the draft Convention have been agreed upon, and negotiations are underway on the remaining issues.
Russia, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan hold to the principle of dividing into national sectors based on the “median line” principles since it is an international boundary lake, and leaving the sea surface for general use, i.e. they are for demarcation of mineral resources and the Caspian Sea shelf, but against dividing up its waters.
Iran seeks an equal division of the Caspian into 5 even sectors, mainly because most of the offshore energy resources are located away from the Iranian coastline. Turkmenistan also demands the division of the Sea into equal parts between the pre-Caspian countries so that each country has 20 percent of the sea.
Russia and Kazakhstan signed an agreement on the delimitation of the northern part of the Caspian Sea in order to exercise sovereign rights for subsoil use in July 1998. The two countries signed a protocol to the agreement in May 2002.
Moreover, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan signed an agreement on the delimitation of the Caspian Sea and a protocol to it in November 2001, and February 2003, respectively.
Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Russia signed an agreement on the delimitation of adjacent sections of the Caspian Sea on May 14, 2003.
Amina Nazarli is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @amina_nazarli
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