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Five Caspian Nations Sign a Landmark Convention

Caspian Sea leaders reach agreement 2018 (Photo for education only)

Caspian Sea leaders reach agreement 2018 (Photo for education only)

By Radwan Jakeem - NEW YORK – The presidents of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan have signed a landmark convention laying solid framework for use of resource-rich Caspian Sea at the Fifth Summit in the Kazakh city of Aktau after two decades of negotiations.

“The region has a unique culture, significant human resources [of 240 million people] and is rich in natural resources; due to its location, the sea also has geopolitical importance,” said Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev at the summit.

The importance of the agreement is also underlined by the fact that in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992, four new states emerged on the coast of the Caspian Sea: Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, the Russian Federation, and Turkmenistan. Subsequently, the issue of the territorial allegiance of the Sea became the point of discord between five independent states, including Iran.

Previous Caspian summits that took place in Ashgabat (Turkmenistan) in 2002, Tehran (Iran) in 2007, Baku (Azerbaijan) in 2010 and Astrakhan (Russia) in 2014, gave a political impetus to the negotiation process.

The Aktau summit on the east bank of the Caspian Sea was preceded by the final 52nd meeting of Ad Hoc Working Group and a Ministerial of the Caspian States where foreign ministers signed a protocol on actions to be taken upon the signing of the convention.

The convention and six additional documents on various aspects of cooperation were signed on August 12, the International Day of the Caspian Sea – the largest enclosed inland body of water on Earth by area, variously classed as the world’s largest lake or a full-fledged sea. It is a basin without outflows located between Europe and Asia.

The contracted convention establishes the rights and obligations of the parties with respect to the sea, including its waters, the bottom, subsoil, natural resources and airspace.

The convention also settles a protracted dispute over whether to consider the water body a sea, which would subject it to international maritime law and accessible by outside countries, or to consider it a lake, which would require dividing it equally among its five coastal nations.

The dispute was settled by granting the Caspian Sea a “special legal status” that establishes the territorial waters within

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev Photo creidit Aleksey Nikolskyi / RIA Novosti (for education only not for commercial purpose)

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev Photo creidit Aleksey Nikolskyi / RIA Novosti (for education only not for commercial purpose)

fifteen maritime miles, external borders become state borders where each country exercises subsurface rights; ten-mile fishing zones adjoin the territorial waters and are under the exclusive fishing rights of each state. Outside the fishing zones, the common water area remains unchanged; beyond the state lines, the freedom of maritime navigation applies to ships of coastal countries.

The signatories agreed on freedom of transit to other seas and oceans and plan to explore the possibility of laying pipelines under the waters if environmental requirements are observed.

The summit participants covered issues of ensuring security, preventing emergencies and regulating military activities of the Caspian states.

Some of the fundamental principles agreed include transforming the region into a peaceful zone of good-neighbourliness and friendship; using the waters for peaceful purposes; respecting sovereignty and territorial integrity of each other; not allowing the military presence of third parties.

Among challenges addressed was the Caspian Sea’s proximity to the areas of political instability. In this regard, Nazarbayev proposed a multilateral agreement on confidence-building measures in the field of military activities.

The Kazakh President invited the leaders of littoral states to explore the potential of the convention in respect of energy, transport and transit sectors, as well as to optimise the tariff policies between members of the convention.

“We have discussed measures for multilateral cooperation and signed trade, economic, transport and security agreements,” Nazarbayev said at a press briefing after the summit.

He noted that all parties considered the deal – already dubbed the ‘Constitution of the Caspian Sea’ – from the point of ensuring political stability, developing the region while preserving and enhancing its natural and biological resources. “The Aktau summit demonstrated once again the ability of Caspian Five to jointly solve large-scale tasks,” he said.

Caspian Sea Kazakhstan Beach Golubaya photo credit Alexandr Kuznetsov - aboutkazakhstan.com - for education only

Caspian Sea Kazakhstan Beach Golubaya photo credit Alexandr Kuznetsov – aboutkazakhstan.com – for education only

Heads of state of Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkmenistan and Russia also made statements on the signing of the convention. Nazarbayev later held bilateral meetings with each leader of the Caspian nations.

President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev noted that the Alyak Port his country launched in May would ensure full integration of traffic flows in connection to the newly opened Kuryk multimodal hub.

“Trade (between our countries) is growing and the cargo transportation is increasing, agricultural products supply is particularly active,” President Hassan Rouhani of Iran said during the meeting on the sidelines of the summit. He underlined that Kazakhstan has always been supportive of Iran on international stage while complying with international agreements on nuclear issues.

“Although actively growing, our trade relations have a large potential to be explored,” said President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov. The two leaders are to meet later this month in Turkmenistan to discuss the Aral Sea –lying between Kazakhstan in the north and Uzbekistan in the south.

President Vladimir Putin and Nazarbayev praised the state of Kazakh-Russian relationship, flourishing in “all directions, with especially close ties in economy, military-technical and space areas.”

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