By Rashid Shirinov
Foreign ministers of the five Caspian littoral states – Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan – met in Moscow on December 5 to discuss the development of a document on the legal status of the Caspian Sea.
During the meeting, the FMs discussed a number of issues of the current agenda on the Caspian Sea.
Azerbaijani FM Elmar Mammadyarov, in particular, noted that prior to the 5th summit of the heads of the Caspian states to be held in Kazakhstan, it is necessary to exert maximum efforts to reach a consensus on all issues, which remain open, related to the status of the Caspian Sea.
The minister said that over the past period, the participants in the negotiation process have done a great deal of work on the draft Convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea, and the decisions and the agreements reached during the five-sided meetings at the highest level contributed significantly to the rapprochement of the positions of all the Caspian states.
“They gave a powerful impetus to the negotiating process as a whole and are of historical importance for the further strengthening of good-neighborly relations, fruitful cooperation and keeping stability in the Caspian region,” he said.
Mammadyarov further noted that the efforts made should serve to consolidate the result of many years of work on the draft Convention and create a comprehensive legal basis for interaction and cooperation of the littoral states in the Caspian Sea.
“This fundamental legal document is designed to lay a solid foundation for the future architecture of relations in the Caspian Sea and will contribute to further strengthening of stability and security in the Caspian region,” Mammadyarov noted.
He also added that the early signing of the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea will serve to take more effective measures aimed at further cooperation on the conservation of the ecosystem of the Caspian Sea, including cooperation of the Caspian states in various fields.
After the five-sided meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made a statement to journalists.
“With great satisfaction, I declare that we have found solutions to all the remaining open key issues related to the preparation of the draft Convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea. The text of the document is, in fact, ready,” he noted.
Lavrov said that the document is planned to be signed at the 5th Caspian Summit in Kazakhstan.
“We hope that this can be done in the first half of the year, but the leadership of Kazakhstan will make the final decision on the timing of the summit, when it will be clear that all technical and legal aspects of work on the agreed text have already been completed,” the FM said.
Further, Lavrov regarded the results of the meeting in Moscow as very positive.
“We have completed our almost 20-year work on the Convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea. This text will be submitted for approval by the heads of our states. We expect that they will support it,” he noted.
The issue of determining the legal status of the sea became relevant after the collapse of the USSR, when the emergence of new subjects of international law - Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan - raised the issue of delimitation of the Caspian Sea between the five littoral countries.
The difficulties in determining the status of the Caspian Sea are linked, in particular, with the recognition of it as a lake or sea, the delineation of which is regulated by different provisions of international law.
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 five even sectors, mainly because most of the offshore energy resources are located away from the Iranian coastline. Turkmenistan also demands division of the Sea into equal parts between the pre-Caspian countries so that each country must have 20 percent of the sea.
The status of the Caspian remains a key topic of discussions at the Caspian states’ summits. The leaders of the five countries met for the first time in 2002 in Ashgabat. The second Caspian summit was held in Tehran in 2007, the third one in Baku in 2010, and the fourth summit – in Astrakhan in 2014. The Convention on the legal status of the sea is planned to be signed at the upcoming Astana summit.
Rashid Shirinov is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @RashidShirinov
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