This Sunday in Aktau, Kazakhstan, presidents Vladimir Putin, Nursultan Nazarbayev, Ilham Aliyev, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov Hasan Rukhani signed a historical document – the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea.
This event became the central one at the 5th Caspian Summit. The document was the result of more than twenty years of work and a peculiar outcome of the four previous meetings of the “Caspian Five” at the highest level.
During the existence of the USSR, the Caspian Sea was in fact the inland sea of the Soviet Union, because Iran owns only about 14 percent of the coast. Accordingly, the development of the region was carried out on the basis of bilateral agreements. However, after changing geopolitical realities, the number of Caspian states grew to five and there was a need to regulate the status of the sea on the basis of a multilateral agreement. Especially since the Caspian Sea as an intercontinental body of water does not fall under the rules of international maritime law, since it does not have a natural outlet to the World Ocean and communicates with it only through the Sea of Azov with the help of the Volga-Don shipping channel.
The work on this document was started by a special group at the level of Foreign Ministers of the five Caspian states in 1996. The issues of the legal status of the Caspian Sea have become a key topic at the meetings of the foreign ministers, as well as at the meetings of the presidents of the “Caspian Five” countries.
The draft Convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea is based on the principles enshrined in the joint statement of the IV Caspian Summit, which was held in September 2014 in Astrakhan.
It, inter alia, stipulated that the parties obtain the rights to extract aquatic biological resources within 25 nautical miles of coastal space: national sovereignty will extend to 15 nautical miles plus 10 adjacent “fishing” ones.
In accordance with the Convention, the main area of the water surface of the Caspian Sea remains in the common use of the parties, and the bottom and subsoil are divided by neighboring states into plots by agreement between them on the basis of international law. Shipping, fishing, scientific research and laying of main pipelines are carried out according to the rules agreed upon by the parties. And in the case of laying the pipeline on the seabed, the consent of all the countries of the “five” is not required, details are agreed by those states on whose sections the highway passes.
The document also notes that the implementation of large-scale marine projects necessarily takes into account the environmental factor.
The Convention also fixes the provision on the prevention of the presence in the Caspian of the armed forces of extra-regional powers, and also determines the five Caspian littoral states responsible for maintaining maritime security and managing its resources.