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Legal Status Of The Caspian Sea

The five Caspian states - Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan - are yet to agree on dividing their sea into national sectors under a final system. Iran regards the Caspian as a lake and says its legal position is based on the Soviet-Iran treaties of 1921 and 1940. The 1940 treaty says the Caspian is "a Soviet and Iranian Sea", with its core being "the Principles of Equality and Exclusivity". In March 1998, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov told Azeri President Gaidar Aliyev that Moscow no longer had objections to unilateral offshore oil and gas development by the Caspian states. Pastukhov also told Aliyev that Moscow agreed the water should be regarded as a sea, rather than a lake. In early April 1998, it was announced that Presidents Boris Yeltsin of Russia and Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan were to sign a bilateral agreement on dividing the seabed into respective zones by April 28. That was to precede a CIS summit in Moscow. But that was postponed and, instead, the two states signed documents saying the principles of the agreement had been drafted. Kazakhstan's First Deputy Foreign Minister Erlan Idrisov later said in London: "Kazakhstan's and Russia's positions on the legal status of the Caspian Sea don't completely coincide, but they are very close". In the end, he added, "a five-party convention should rule the Caspian, which would cover matters such as the seabed, the sea's surface, and environmental and fishing matters". On April 30, Iran's foreign ministry said it was opposed to any unilateral agreements concerning the exploitation of the oil and gas resources in the Caspian Sea. Speaking at a Caspian economic conference in Almaty in May, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi said a sectoral division of the Caspian can only take place if there is unanimous agreement from all the littoral states. He said Iran was opposed to dividing the Caspian into five national sectors and to the proposed sub-Caspian pipelines on environmental grounds. Another problem for Baku is the dispute between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan over offshore territories which include oil-rich areas. Turkmenistan has recently begun negotiations with Mobil over rights to a disputed offshore oilfield called Serdar by the Turkmen side and Kaypaz by the Azeris. Moreover, Turkmenistan has claims over the Azeri and Chirag offshore oilfields which are being developed by the BP-led AIOC (see below). While Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan agree to the proposed sectoral division of the Caspian seabed, they do not agree to the proposed sharing of the sea itself. Turkmenistan is sympathetic to some aspects of Iran's position. On May 18, 'Argus' reported a "draft declaration by the foreign ministers of both

countries" which jointly reiterated "the principle of equal share for all the littoral states and equitable use and benefit from its resources".
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Publication:APS Review Gas Market Trends
Article Type:Article
Geographic Code:0USSR
Date:Jul 6, 1998
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