CASPIAN NOT DIVIDED YET

The perspectives of signing of a Convention on Caspian by the Caspian littoral countries, which would contain status of the sea and principles on the use of its bio and energy resources are still vague. It became obvious at the last meeting of a special working group on the Caspian, which was held in Moscow on 15-16 Mach 2006. As the Caspian do not have direct exit to the world oceans and is an inner-continental water reservoir (lake), the international norms of marine rights, in particular, those concerning the territorial sea, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf were never applied on it. Thus, one of major problems in the achievement of consensus among the Caspian littoral countries Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan is the division of the bottom and water.

All sides, except Iran, actually agreed upon division of the so-called "medium modified line" till the geographic borders to the coast, leaving the water basing in general use. Iran which received only 13% due to its geographic location, disagree with such division and insists on either leaving the bottom and water in general use, or divide all into national sectors equally 200% each. The Moscow meeting showed that Iran was too from changing its position and taking into consideration the fact that the Convention can be adopted only trough general agreement of the five, such persistence by Iran cannot impede the development of the document.

The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, called on the sides, to observe the Soviet-Iranian agreements, dated 1921 and 1940 until the final solution to the Caspian sea status is found. Issues of transit through the Russian internal water ways can be resolved through signing relevant agreements with Russia, as these water ways are not international. The experience of such contacts shows that the questions must be resolved as soon as possible.

The Russian position based on the principle that as more part of the Caspian is left in general use as better for preservation of sea resources. Russia offers 15-mile zone in the Caspian out of borders of which the zone will be left in general use. This 15-mile coastal zone will be under the jurisdiction of every country and expand the share of many Caspian states, which does not exceed 10 miles. Russian side urges that the management of marine resources should be based on collective bases. Every Caspian state should have a sea belt to ensure security and economic activities.

Kazakhstan in its turn offers establishment of a fishery zone in the Caspian and the common space. Foreign border of territorial waters must be a state border, within which the coastal state will enjoy proper sovereign rights, the Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan, Tokayev thinks. It will enable to acquire additional security guarantees in the context of inviolability of borders and territorial integrity.

Concerning the construction of pipelines via the Caspian bottom, Kazakhstan considers as optimal to coordinate the terms and route with the countries that will host them in their section.

According to Turkmenistan, a draft convention on Caspian status has been coordinated by 60-70%. Part of articles of principle character, In particular, the division of the water basin, bottom and wealth of the Caspian, the construction of pipelines and cables, transit of vessels, presence of armed forces, are still to be unified, while another of part of less principle character, have been acceded partially. Turkmenistan demands to add some tens of miles of fishing zones to the coastal zone for exclusively of national use.

Azerbaijan is loyal to a principle on trilateral agreement reached between Azerbaijan, Russia and Kazakhstan on the Caspian sea ground division. Khalaf Khalafov, the Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister, also the Azerbaijani Presidents special representative on Caspian diplomacy, the country respects the positions of Iran and Turkmenistan on the Caspian sea division. The talks between Azerbaijan and Russia in the sphere of strategic partnership in the Caspian Sea are continuing. In accordance with the existing rules, Russias permission is needed for passage of vessels of the Caspian Sea via Russias internal waters. Definite arose following the passage of vessels belonging to the Caspian countries via the Black Sea. Other Caspian countries are also in talks Russia in this connection. In this respect the Caspian states try to achieve the settlement of the problem.

After the collapse of the former USSR the Caspian Sea has become an apple of discord in the relationships of 5 littoral countries Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Iran. Now the question is how to make it a sea of fruitful cooperation. One should confess that the development of an acceptable variant on the Caspian status has delayed too long. Its not so easy question. The sides cannot agree how to divide the oil rich region. According to American experts estimations, the Caspian deposits comprise billion barrels. They urge that the issue on the new Caspian status with the appearance of 5 littoral countries in the seashore after the collapse of the former USSR would never unless there were found huge hydrocarbon reserves.

Azerbaijan has succeeded to sign bilateral documents on delimitation of the Caspian sea with Russia and Kazakhstan. As a result three countries legally develop the oil fields in their territories. The case with Turkmenistan turned out more difficult. So, it is too early to speak about consensus. There are more serious problems concerning the presence of armed forces of third countries in the Caspian, construction of Trans-Caspian pipelines, definition of the depth of coastal national fishing zones.

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