22-year-stalemate ends as 5 countries sign Caspian Sea deal

Caspian Sea countries on Sunday signed landmark deal in Kazakhstan’s port city Aktau, ending 22 years of disagreement on the legal status of the Caspian Sea.

The leaders of the five countries – Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan that border the Caspian Sea agreed to jointly manage maritime shipping and fishing as well as limit their military presence on the Caspian.

The Caspian region has a unique history and diverse culture, significant human resources and the richest natural resources are concentrated here.

Speaking on the event, the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev emphasized the role of the previous Caspian summits, which gave the necessary political impetus to the negotiation process and stimulated the achievement of consensus on the differences in positions.

“To date, the Caspian countries have great potential and are developing dynamically. The total population of our states is about 240 million people. All that has made it necessary to jointly resolve the entire range of issues related to the Caspian Sea,” Nazarbayev said.

Nazarbayev noted that the Convention is the principal comprehensive document regulating the rights and obligations of the parties with respect to the Caspian Sea, including its waters, the bottom, subsoil, natural resources and airspace.

In this context, Nazarbayev emphasized that special attention was paid to issues of ensuring security, preventing the consequences of emergencies and military activities of the Caspian states.

Russian President Vladimir Putin told his counterparts that, “It is crucial that the convention governs maritime shipping and fishing, sets out military cooperation among [Caspian] nations and enshrines our states’ exclusive rights and responsibilities over the sea’s future.”

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

“Hotspots, including Middle East and Afghanistan, aren’t far away from the Caspian Sea,” Putin said.

“Therefore, the very interests of our peoples require our close cooperation.” The summit may give boost to digitalization of commerce, mutual trade and logistics,” Putin suggested.

He urged them to look at transportation across the Caspian as one of key factors of sustainable growth and cooperation of the Caspian countries.

The Russian President suggested the need for the five states to establish the Caspian Economic Forum to develop ties between the Caspian countries’ businesses.

Separately, Nazarbayev spoke about the fundamental principles of the activities of the Convention’s member countries.

Among them is transformation of the Caspian Sea into a zone of peace, good-neighbourliness and friendship; its use for peaceful purposes; respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity; lack of presence of armed forces on the Caspian Sea that do not belong to the parties.

The Kazakh President stressed that the Convention should open up broad prospects for strengthening peaceful cooperation in the Caspian, and announced a number of additional measures in this direction.

In the context of further developing investment cooperation and implementing projects in the energy and exploration sector, Nazarbayev stated that it is necessary to make full use of the possibilities of the Convention and the documents to be inked.

To increasing transport and transit capacities, Nazarbayev proposed to optimize the tariff policy and improve transportation conditions in the Convention’s member countries.

His Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rohani, said that the delimitation of oil- and gas-rich Caspian seabed will require additional agreements between littoral states.

Rohani also hailed a clause in the convention that prevents non-Caspian countries from deploying military forces on the Caspian Sea, saying, “The Caspian Sea only belongs to the Caspian states.”