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Thursday, 05 October 2017 17:30

Pending Caspian Sea status issue affects competitiveness Featured

Pending Caspian Sea status issue affects competitiveness

As time goes by, the pending Caspian Sea status progressively reminds a well known allegory “a cart before a horse”, a peculiar atavism in history, which hinders implementation of new investment projects in the Caspian countries – attraction of new modern oil-gas production technologies, creation of the flexible trans-Caspian export gas system, practical solution of the problem on full disappearance of valuable fish species, the entire flora and fauna caused by man-made and anthropogenic factors. The uncertainty of the matter also affects the stimulation of small and medium business development, development of alternative energy sector in the Caspian and ecotourism by analogy of Croatia.

 Apart from this, active globalization processes associated with the development of telecommunications, transport corridors from China and India to EU, and economic growth of these countries, turn the today’s agenda of the Caspian Sea status negotiations into a tool slowing down not only the oil-gas activity, which takes the second if not the third place, but also affecting the GDP growth and competitiveness of the Caspian region states on the world markets. Over the last three years the fifth summit was expected to be held in Astana in summer 2016 and then in 2017. The July meeting of the Foreign Affairs Ministers of the Caspian states in Astana revealed that clarification of the sovereign zone of the water surface, borders, fishing and science-research zone, issues concerning ecology, security, force-majeure situation handling, protection and use of bio-resources still remain non agreed. These issues can be agreed within the working group.

Therefore, sooner or later the process of the Caspian status must have been activated and this moment came which is indicated by negotiation activity held on the highest level.

Early in august, President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov and President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev held negotiations about the Caspian problem in Baku. In the course of the meeting held with Azerbaijan President I.Aliyev in Astana on September 10, President of Iran Hasan Rouhani noted good prospects of cooperation between the two countries in the field of energy. Speaking about the problem of the Caspian Sea status, he expressed hope for reaching agreements on this matter in near future through coordinating the efforts. In his turn, President of AR received Iran President’s invitation to the following three-sided summit of the heads of states of Azerbaijan, Iran and Russia to be held in Tehran.

Now, the Russian stance of the foreign policy is activated early in October. “Those who track the news see that this topic is addressed both in the negotiations of our President, and in the negotiations of our Foreign Minister, when they meet their counterparts from the Caspian states”, Special Representative of the RF President Igor Bratchikov said.

According to the ambassador at large, one of the goals of the current meeting is to “draw a line under the long (editorial note 25 years) negotiations” about the legal status of the Caspian Sea. “We hope that the convention will be signed in Kazakhstan next year”, he said and emphasized that interests of entities of Russia would be considered while signing the document.

“We hope that a matter on completion of the joint work over the convention of the Caspian status will probably be considered at the 5th summit of the Caspian states”, President of Turkmenistan said in the course of negotiations held with RF President Vladimir Putin in Ashgabat on October 2.

Berdimuhammedov emphasized that “this matter … is of strategic significance, and I think that we all - Caspian states – will speak for the settlement of this matter”.

  • As early as 1995, Azerbaijan enshrined “an absolute sovereignty of the country in its territorial sector” in its constitution and carries out an active economic activity on the basis of its national interests and generally accepted world practice. 
  • On July 6, 1998, Russia and Kazakhstan signed an agreement on delimitation of the deep seabed of the Northern Part of the Caspian Sea for the purpose of the exercise of sovereign rights to subsoil management. This agreement implies delimitation of the seabed and subsoil on the basis of a modified median line.
  • “A joint statement about principles of cooperation in the Caspian Sea” was signed on January 9, 2001 in the course of the visit of the RF President Vladimir Putin to Baku.
  • The text of the joints statement tells about a procedure of the seabed division “on the basis of the median line which is drawn on basis of the equally-spaced positions and modified by agreement of the parties, as well as on basis of the universally recognized principles of the international law and the established practice in the Caspian. The item  5 of the statement says: “Other elements of the legal status of the Caspian Sea are supposed to be discussed at further stages”.
  • In 2002, Russia and Azerbaijan signed bilateral agreements about division of adjacent sections of the Caspian Sea bed. The delimitation covered only the seabed while the surface remained common.
  • Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan signed an agreement about delimitation of the Caspian Sea bed in Moscow on November 29, 2005.  The document sets the principle of delimitation of the Caspian Sea bed along the median line, geographical description and coordinates of which will be included into a separate protocol. The agreements do not concern the delimitation of the sovereign state territories and relate to the performance of the economic activity on the seabed in order to explore, develop and manage the resources and subsoil of the national sectors of the sea.  
    As the representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan emphasized, the delimitation of the seabed does not cover the biological resources and use of the Caspian Sea for shipping. The parties also called the Caspian states to sooner conclusion of the convention about the legal status of the Caspian Sea on basis of their common consent.  

As a result, the legal status of the northern part of the Caspian Sea was de facto determined.

  • The first summit of the Caspian countries was held in Ashgabat on April 23-24, 2002, but there were no serious success gained in determining the Caspian Sea status. At that time four countries offered to divide the sea via the median line while Iran insisted on division into equal parts. Apart from this, Turkmenistan offered to set a 20mile zone in the center of the Sea for free shipping. 
  • A framework convention about the protection of the marine environment of the Caspian Sea gained force in August 2007. Later, signed to this convention were protocols about regional readiness, response and cooperation in case of incidents causing oil pollution, about protection of the Caspian Sea from pollution by onland sources and operations, and preservation of the biological diversity.
  • Tehran hosted the summit in October 2007.

According to the agreements announced at the summit, only the vessels sailing under the flags of the Caspian states get a right for shipping in the Caspian Sea; only 5 countries having an access to the Caspian Sea can take part in the negotiations concerning the Caspian Sea status. Apart from this, a decision to hold the meetings of the heads of the Caspian states on an annual basis was made at the summit.

  • One of the key issues of the Caspian Sea legal status settlement was solved at the third summit held in Baku in 2010: the national line 24miles in width was determined. Besides, the parties agreed to work out the final principles of division of the Caspian Sea by the following year (2011).
  • The fourth summit held in Astrakhan in September 2015 turned out ground-breaking, At least it was the way the leaders of Kazakhstan and Russia assessed its results. Leaders of the five Caspian states agreed the principles of the national sovereignty of each country over the 15-mile long littoral maritime space and another 10 “fishing” miles.   According to the Russian President, the thing that the most part of the Caspian Sea water area remains in common use of the parties has been quite significant. Owing to all this, facing of misunderstandings or any tension in interstates relations, which could occur before because of different interpretation of the Caspian waters regime, are now excluded”, he said.

Thus, until the 5th summit of 2018 it is necessary to find a solution for 4 issues, including such matters as the construction of lines along the Caspian Sea bed. For this purpose, the diplomats have already scheduled a number of working meetings whereafter the meeting of foreign affairs will be held to appoint the date of the 5th summit. 

 

Natalya Aliyeva, Editor-in-Chief, Caspian Energy

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