IRNA – The Caspian Sea Legal Regime Convention was signed by the Caspian littoral leaders after nearly 22 years, and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday announced Moscow’s agreement to implement it now by four countries – Russia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan – as it is waiting for Iranian Parliament’s approval.
Perhaps one of the reasons for the complexity and persistence of disputes over the finalization of the Caspian Legal Regime, which was signed a year ago, was the nature of the sea over the past few years, because in its classification it is neither a sea nor a lake.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin had stated in this regard that the Caspian is an inter-continental water zone that has no direct relationship with the oceans to name the sea. On the other hand, because of its similarity to the sea and given to the size and composition of water and features of beds of this water zone, the name of the lake does not reflect its characteristics.
In his view, it was because of these contradictions that the 1982 UN Convention on the Rights of the Seas or Transboundary Lakes did not include the present water zone, and it was intended to divide the bed of this water zone only into several parts and to set exercising its sovereignty over the Caspian Sea with different principles.
Russian officials, hoping for the Iranian parliament to approve the Caspian Sea legal convention, believe the littoral states have finally found ways to resolve the disagreement over partitioning the water zone’s bed, so their leaders signed the legal convention.
Who are Parties to Caspian Sea Legal Convention?
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the three countries of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan were also added to Russia and Iran, as the traditional heirs of the Caspian Sea, each having their own independent views on the water zone and seeking to gain profits from the sea for preserving their independence.
The Republic of Azerbaijan, with about 10 million people in the west of the Caspian Sea and closer to the West than any other littoral state.
The Republic of Azerbaijan has long been opposed to the division of the sea into five parts, as doing so would mean depriving Baku of some oil and gas fields in the Caspian Sea.
The country is also at odds with Turkmenistan over some of the midfields close to separating line between to countries, but it has always had the upper hand against Turkmenistan, as Turkmenistan will eventually depend on Baku to fulfill its dream of delivering gas to Europe.
Turkmenistan, with a population of about six million located in the east of the Caspian Sea, has also withdrawn from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) agreement with Russia to exclude participation in any military treaty with Moscow and not allow Russian troops to be deployed in its country.
The country, despite the abundance of gas resources, has become one of China’s debtors which receives the gas in return for debt.
China’s gas demand and Ashgabat debt to Beijing are high enough that many Russian energy experts believe Turkmenistan would have no gas to export to Europe if it had a gas pipeline to Europe which no one cannot accept due to the rich resources of energy in the Caspian.
Kazakhstan, with more than 16 million population, is the third post-Soviet Caspian Sea littoral state located northeast of the Caspian Sea.
It is one of Russia’s closest allies, which has agreed with Moscow to divide the northern part of the sea.
However, reports indicate that Russia is not satisfied with its independent policy of providing its ports to the United States for the transfer of equipment to Afghanistan and considers the move as equivalent to building a US military base in the Caspian.
Russia, the largest country in the world and a key member of the UN Security Council in the northern Caspian Sea, is currently the only full-fledged Caspian power that has targeted ISIS in Syria.
The country, after agreeing with Kazakhstan on the partition of the sea, was able to sign a trilateral agreement with Azerbaijan, effectively completing the partition of the northern part of the sea.
Bearing in mind, it can be said that most of the unresolved disputes go back to the southern Caspian Sea where Iran, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan share a common water border.
After the Turkmenistan seabed pipeline issue, which seems to have faded out due to inefficiency and high costs, the issue of seabed oilfields is a matter of dispute.
Despite all the disagreements and conflicts of interest in the Caspian, the heads of the five Caspian littoral states focused on common interests last year, were succeeded in signing the Caspian Sea Legal Regime Convention, refusing to specify the precise partition of the sea to achieve progress to sign convention.
One of the important provisions is the viewpoint of Iran and Russia in the Convention is related to the Prevention of Foreign Forces (especially Western and American States) from entering the Caspian Sea.
It should be remembered that the Caspian Sea is ranked second in the world in terms of oil and gas resources after the Persian Gulf and is therefore of particular interest to the United States and European countries.
In this regard, Russia and Iran insisted that the presence of third-country’s armed forces in the Caspian Sea be included in the text of the Convention, which was the case.
It could be said that the signing of the Convention was an important step that was taken and ended 21 years of negotiations in this regard.
Signing this convention is certainly not the end of all negotiations and actions in the Caspian, and is in fact the starting point for the implementation of MoUs, monitoring of implementation as well as the start of negotiations for the signing of new and indispensable agreements as the convention did not specify the limits of the bed and under bed origins, and separate agreements have been put forward in the future, with officials in five countries hoping to resolve these issues in the near future.
What is clear today is that the Caspian authorities all agree that without the intervention of the US or other Western powers, they can turn this water zone into a sea of peace and friendship, with the sole purpose of ultimately cooperating. This water zone will benefit the nations of this region.