Re-designated as a 'body of water', the surface of the Caspian Sea will be for common use, while the seabed and subsoil are to be divided
The countries of the ‘Caspian Five’ (Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan) signed a convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea on 12 August at a summit in the Kazakh city of Aktau.
The signing comes after more than two decades of discussions. The main hitch was in rich oil and gas deposits underneath the sea bed worth approximately USD eight trillion. Another dispute regarding the Caspian’s designation as either lake or sea was resolved after the littoral states agreed to a ‘body of water’.
According to the new convention, which experts call the ‘constitution’ of the Caspian Sea, its surface remains in common use, and the bottom and subsoil are divided into five sections by agreement between the countries. Countries are to jointly negotiate the rules of navigation, fishing, scientific research and pipeline building.
Among other things, the convention prohibits the armed forces of third countries from entering the Caspian. International experts consider this a strategic victory for Moscow because this move limits China, Russia’s main rival in the region, in trying to control transit routes.
“Russia was the main driving force behind this section. It is unknown what Moscow sacrificed, but in terms of security, it won,” says an analyst from Verisk Maplecroft, Camilla Hagelund.
Until now, Iran and Turkmenistan have been ardent opponents regarding the division of the Caspian Sea’s interior. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani is still not completely satisfied regarding the outcome, and believes that negotiations should continue:
“In our opinion, the Caspian Convention … does not establish definitively delimiting lines at sea, [thus] negotiations between the parties should continue. It is necessary to have a separate agreement on the matter,” he said.