Caspian Sea convention moves Iran closer to northern neighbors

Al-Monitor | : The Kazakh coastal city of Aktau hosted Aug. 12 the fifth summit of the five Caspian littoral states — Iran, Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan — on the legal status of the Caspian Sea. The presidents of the five countries signed a landmark convention on the legal status of the Caspian, ending 21 years of disagreements over how to coordinate their economic, political and security plans for the largest inland salt sea in the world. On the sidelines of the summit, six agreements were also signed on issues such as economic cooperation, transportation and fighting organized crime.

Although the five presidents at the summit praised the convention as a significant step in resolving longstanding disagreements and a prelude to further cooperation in the Caspian region, Iranian public opinion showed an overall negative reaction to the accord. Most of the criticisms were based on the claim that Iran has ceded its historical rights in the Caspian to its northern neighbors.

Debates over the issue intensified especially as Reformist parliament member Mahmoud Sadeghi speculated in a tweet that Iran’s share of the Caspian has been reduced from 50% to 11%, comparing the convention signed in Aktau with the 1828 Treaty of Turkmenchay, in which great swaths of Iran’s territory were ceded to Tsarist Russia. The tweet was followed by a wave of similar accusations against President Hassan Rouhani’s administration on Persian-language social media.

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