By Bahman Aghai Diba, PhD International Law of the Sea
The 4th Caspian Summit was held in Astrakhan of Russia on 29th of September 2014. The summit did not take any step in finding a new legal regime for the Caspian Sea that can be agreed by all five littoral states. However, Russia and Iran tried to use the occasion for something else: keeping out the presence of the non-littoral states from the Caspian Sea.
The 4th Caspian summit was not expected to solve the most important issue that was in its agenda, i.e. the legal regime of the Caspian Sea. The Caspian littoral states have convened hundreds of meetings in various levels for solving this problem in the last 18 years since the collapse of the USSR. At the moment, a draft “convention of the legal regime of the Caspian Sea” is prepared by these states but the draft leaves the place of the most important issues such as the criteria for delimitation of the Cassian Sea (seabed and waters), blank. Now, this draft is going to be discussed in the next summit of the Caspian states which is supposed to be held at the end of 2015 in Kazakhstan.
At the same time, the other documents that have been adopted by this summit and similar sessions (on issues such pollution, security and crimes), will not be have much possibility of effective implementation until such time that the legal regime of the Caspian Sea (which defines who owns what and who is responsible of what and where) is determined.
The governments of Iran and Russia, before, during and after the summit expressed their views about the new regime of the Caspian Sea. However, apart from diplomatic niceties and talking about the necessity of cooperation, interaction and coordination they repeated stances which are not consistent with each other and represented different set of interests by Iran with Russia first, and then with Azerbaijan Republic and Kazakhstan.
Russia, despite the recent trends of closer relations with Iran (which due to their deteriorating relations with the West), was not ready to show any leniency or support of the Iran’s rights or positions in the Caspian Sea and they concentrated on using Iran’s stance in support of their stance against the presence of the non-littoral states in the Caspian sea.
However, Iran insisted again on the necessity of using the principle of equity in the international law for delimitation of the Caspian sea sea-bed and waters and therefore, indirectly again rejected the legitimacy of the interim agreements between Russia and Azerbaijan Republic and Kazakhstan for delimitation of the Caspian on the basis of the Russian proposal of modified median line. This point, in addition to refrainment of Iran from moving in the direction of accepting the Russian proposal about the legal regime of the Caspian Sea were the most important issues in the4th Caspian summit.
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