By Narmina Mammadova
The first meeting of the working group on the status of the Caspian Sea is scheduled to be held in Baku in November of this year, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov said on October 23.
“As is known, in order to effectively implement the Convention [on the legal status of the Caspian Sea] and the review of cooperation in the Caspian Sea, the heads of state at the Summit in Aktau decided to establish a working group at the level of deputy foreign ministers - plenipotentiaries of the Caspian states. There are plans to hold the first meeting of this group in Baku this November," he said.
In addition, the minister noted that the heads of states commissioned, as a matter of priority, to begin agreeing on a five-sided agreement on the method of establishing direct baselines in the Caspian Sea in order to determine the territorial waters of coastal countries.
This issue will be the main agenda of the new stage of negotiations in a five-sided format, Mammadyarov added.
He noted that the signing of the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea was a truly historic event, marking the goodwill of the five coastal states.
“The main significance of this document for our country is that it defines the sovereign and exclusive rights of coastal states to use the rich natural resources of the sea. Thus, the Convention ensures the consistency and safety of the implementation of various projects in the field of the oil and gas industry, as well as the implementation of other economic activities on the sea," the minister said.
In addition, Mammadyarov noted that the Convention establishes territorial waters and fishing zones, which are subject to sovereignty and exclusive rights of coastal states. The freedom and safety of navigation is ensured, which plays an exceptional role in terms of the development of trade in the Caspian Sea and the economies of our countries, he added.
“Regarding ratification, we hope that the signatory countries will be able to carry out the necessary domestic procedures in the near future,” the minister pointed out.
On August 12, the Kazakh city of Aktau hosted a ceremony of signing documents on the legal status of the Caspian Sea at the 5th summit of heads of the Caspian states.
As a result of the summit, the Caspian Sea gained a special, unique status -- it was declared neither lake nor sea.
According to the Convention, the surface is to be treated as a sea, with states granted jurisdiction over 15 nautical miles of water from their coasts and fishing rights over an additional ten miles.
However, the seabed and its deposits are not allocated in precise form. The delineation of the seabed, which is almost completely an oil and gas basin, is yet to be defined. This division is left to countries to agree on a bilateral basis.
The convention also permits the construction of pipelines, which only require the approval of the countries whose seabed they pass, subject to environmental provisions, and forbids non-Caspian countries from deploying military vessels in the water.
Work on the document has been going on since 1996, and the draft convention was finally agreed upon within the framework of the meeting of foreign ministers of the Caspian states in Moscow on December 4-5, 2017.
The legal status of the Caspian Sea has remained unsolved during more than two decades, preventing development and exploitation of its disputable oil and gas fields and creating obstacles to the realization of major projects.
Follow us on Twitter @AzerNewsAz