Firmly connecting Caspian littoral states

16 August 2018 18:11 (UTC+04:00)

Caspian Sea – the largest inland body of water – has been in the center of disputes for more than two decades due to a difficulty in granting it the status of either lake or sea.

Finally, a landmark agreement was reached and the Convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea was signed by heads of Azerbaijan, Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan on August 12.

The signing of Convention on the legal status of the sea, documents on cooperation in the spheres of economy, transport, ecology and biological resources in the Caspian basin strengthened security and guaranteed peace in the region. 

Over the past 25 years, there have been attempts to sow discord among the littoral states and to turn the Caspian Sea into an open arena for the military forces of countries not related to this sea. However, due to firm political will of the heads of Caspian littoral states, those attempts were doomed to failure.  

With the signing of this historic Convention, a new era of large transit, transport and logistical opportunities of Azerbaijan along the North-South and East-West corridors has begun. Moreover, a new page of cooperation with neighbors was opened.

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. 

The determination of the long-debated status brought Turkmenistan, whose recoverable reserves are estimated at 17.5 trillion cubic meters of gas, one step closer to its dream – Turkmen gas reaching the ‘old continent’. Such energy export initiative as the proposed Trans-Caspian Pipeline from Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan that would bring Turkmen gas to European markets now has more chances to be implemented.

Although, a few issues on the oil blocks ownership and division of the seabed left, the main document has set a basis for further work.

Thus, Iran and Azerbaijan, which previously had serious disagreements over delimitation of the sea and energy cooperation, are expected to jointly make use of Caspian Sea’s resources.

The compromise reached by the Caspian Five can be regarded as a great historic victory of diplomacy which turned energy-rich basin into the sea of peace, stability and prosperity. This is the case when there are no losers, but only winners.

Azerbaijan, for its part, will gain huge benefits as a transit country when oil is exported from Central Asian nations via the Caspian Sea and may possibly get access to another oil block, while strengthening relations with Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.

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Kamila Aliyeva is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @Kami_Aliyeva

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