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Caspian Summit will not solve the issue of Caspian Legal regime

By Bahman Aghai Diba, PhD. International Law of the Sea

The 4th Summit meeting of the Caspian littoral states (Iran, Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan Republic and Turkmenistan) is going to be held in September 2014 in Russia. The main subject in the agenda of this meeting is review of the latest draft treaty on the legal regime of the Caspian Sea. However, it seems the summit will not solve the issue of Caspian Legal regime and it will be dominated by other issues.

Up to now, the Caspian Sea littoral states have failed to reach a general compromise on the legal regime of the Caspian Sea. Since the collapse of the USSR, these states have convened many conferences in all levels, including the first summit in 2002 in Ashgabat (Turkmenistan) and second summit in Tehran, 16th of October 2007, and the 3rd Summit conference in Baku in 2010 to find a new legal regime for the region( to replace the old and still existing one which is based on Iran-Russia 1921 and 1940 treaties that without going to details, declare the Caspian Sea as a common body of water for the parties) and they have not succeeded. This issue has the potential to turn into a point of confrontation and even conflict, especially with discovery of new oil and gas resources, advances in the technology, the increasing prices of energy, and the new importance of the Caspian oil as an alternative to the Persian Gulf oil (at least to some extent) as a source of non-Arab, and Non-OPEC oil and gas.

The position of Iran is to divide the Caspian Sea according to equity (20% for each). The Russian Federation, along with Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan) is imposing its formula of MML (Modified Median Line) for the division of the Caspian Sea-bed and leaving the superjacent waters for the common use. Turkmenistan has not accepted but is under pressures to admit the MML. Iranian position is not limited to the “seabed”. The reality is that the other states in the Caspian Sea do not agree with Iran on many of the positions of Iran including the validity of the Iran-USSR treaties, the necessity of using the principle of equity and the meaning of equity in this case.

Under these conditions, the Caspian Summit in September 2014 will be a conference dominated by issues out of its official agenda and hijacked by its apparently peripheral subjects. Russia is under pressure from the feeling of being threatened by the West, and Iran wants the support of Russians both in the nuclear case and more broadly in the conflict with the West. These important survival points for the regimes of the two countries do not leave much space for issues such as the legal regime of the Caspian Sea. What they are going to do is concentrating on keeping the non-littoral states of the Caspian Sea, especially the Western countries, out of the issues related to this body of water. The Russians have already talked about proposing a convention about independence of the Caspian Sea to the Summit. They are after excluding all non-littoral states from having military or civilian presence in the Caspian Sea.

... Payvand News - 08/28/14 ... --

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