Published: Wed, August 15, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

1st LD: 5 states sign pact for shared use of Caspian Sea

1st LD: 5 states sign pact for shared use of Caspian Sea

While the convention appears to settle some of the big questions regarding the resource-rich sea, as Bruce Pannier notes, the meeting delivered less than expected.

He added the landmark accord also limits military presence in the Caspian Sea to the five littoral countries.

"I am confident that the results of Aktau Summit will make a worthy contribution to the advancement of our multifaceted cooperation in the Caspian Sea", Nazarbayev was quoted as saying in a statement.

The Caspian sea was shared between the five countries located on its shores. And those resources are significant.

One of the reasons for the fraught negotiations was how to divide the Caspian Sea's hydrocarbon reserves. Just $5 a month.

Landlocked and less salty than the ocean, the Caspian Sea was regarded by Iran and the Soviet Union - until the Soviet collapse - as a lake, with a border neatly dividing the two countries' territories.

The surface water will be in common usage, meaning freedom of access for all littoral states beyond territorial waters.

If it is treated as a sea, then it would be covered by worldwide maritime law, namely the United Nations Law of the Sea.

Fishing zones are to be delimited 25 nautical miles from each country's coast. The bounds of the EEZs would be set based on a median line.

Global law provides formulas for dividing up the seabeds of lakes and seas.

Aliyev said bilateral and multilateral cooperation on Caspian Sea will contribute to the stability and security in the region.

The creation of a reliable legal framework will expand the cooperation of all the five littoral states: Kazakhstan, Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan. Projects such as the laying of pipelines must be agreed by all parties. The convention reportedly stipulates that only countries through which a pipeline crosses would have to agree on the construction. However, this objection is laughable, since Russia's Gazprom has laid several pipelines in the Black Sea, which also has a "unique biosphere".

But some are likely to view it as more of a breakthrough than others.

Iran has argued it should be called a lake, a description that has wide implications.

The United States has agreements in place with Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan to ship military cargo from Baku to ports in Aktau and Quryq in Kazakhstan. The most hard hurdle was always going to be how to divide the sea's valuable resources, and that hurdle remains.

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