Kazakhstan: Littoral states agree on Caspian Sea status

Sergio Conner
August 15, 2018

Meeting in the Kazakh port city of Aqtau, the leaders of Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan have signed a new convention on the legal status of the resource-rich sea - a matter disputed between the five neighbors for more than 20 years.

Debates on whether the Caspian is a sea or a lake have been ongoing since the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991, leaving five countries with shorelines on the inland sea instead of two - the Soviet Union and Iran.

Al Jazeera's Rory Challands reports from Moscow.

People exercise on a beach on the Caspian Sea in Baku, Azerbaijan, in 2015.

What the agreement establishes is a set of ground rules for determining each country's specific territorial waters and fishing zones.

The convention does not include any term on delimitation of boundaries of the Caspian littoral countries, the seabed shares or delineation of sea depth, the spokesman said, adding that such issues would be resolved after further expert negotiations given the complexity of the issue.

The agreement also included the principles of preservation of a military balance, the protection of biological resources and navigation safety.

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The establishment of USA military bases at the Caspian Sea is "out of question", Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov told Sputnik."Some representatives of Russian media and expert communities do not have a firm grasp of facts on the real situation regarding the transit of U.S. non-military cargo via Kazakhstan ..."

The convention was signed by President Hassan Rouhani of the Islamic Republic of Iran, President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation, President Nursultan Nazarbayev of the Republic of Kazakhstan, President Ilham Aliyev of the Republic of Azerbaijan, and President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow of the Republic of Turkmenistan. The problem is how to divide those reserves, and Sunday's "historic" agreement leaves those issues unsettled.

The sea's basins and surrounding areas are reported to be home to billions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic meters of natural gas.

Nevertheless, Rouhani hailed a stipulation in the convention that prevents non-Caspian countries from deploying military forces on the sea.

The Caspian Sea has several different species of sturgeon, the fish that yields the highly prized delicacy caviar.

In a related development also on Sunday, high-ranking officials of the five Caspian Sea littoral states signed six documents for strategic and economic cooperation in the presence of their respective countries' presidents.

One of those is a pipeline across the Caspian which could ship natural gas from Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan and then further to Europe, allowing it to compete with Russian Federation in the Western markets.

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