Littoral States Inch Closer to Finalising Caspian Legal Status

Nov 25. MFA

Littoral States Inch Closer to Finalising Caspian Legal StatusAstana hosted the 30th session of the Special Working Group for the elaboration of a convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea on November 22-23. The two-day meeting was held at the level of deputy foreign ministers from the Caspian littoral states of Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Russia.

In his opening address to the session, Foreign Minister Yerzhan Kazykhanov of Kazakhstan said the issue of settling the status of the Caspian Sea and the establishment of a regime of political, economic, and cultural cooperation has always been a strategically important issue for Kazakhstan. This issue, he said, is complex and multi-faceted, and primarily touches upon territorial issues, the solution of which will broaden prospects for mutually beneficial economic cooperation between the littoral states.

“I am sure that only concerted efforts will successfully integrate the resources of our countries into the global economy. Infrastructure projects that we are implementing and are planning will facilitate the development of existing capacities of our countries and of the entire Caspian region,” Kazykhanov said.

In terms of security and environmental protection, the minister was pleased to note a steady development of the legal framework for collaboration among the five littoral states in these spheres. He said the concluded Framework Convention on Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea and the Agreement on Security Cooperation have served as catalysts for the elaboration of other international treaties related to the activities of the littoral states on the sea.

One of those was the first protocol to the abovementioned Framework Convention on regional preparedness, response and cooperation in case of incidents caused by oil pollution signed on August 12 this year. Negotiations are under way on the drafts of other three documents as well as draft agreements on sturgeon conservation, conservation and sustainable use of biological resources of the Caspian Sea.

The major task the five countries face today is the establishment of a long-term solid legal basis for cooperation. One of the main components of this task is the delimitation of the offshore zone. According to Kazykhanov, reaching an agreement on a unified position is possible, and a convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea could be signed in the near future. He said existing agreements at the level of the heads of state clearly documented in the protocol resolution of the Baku summit in November 2010 suggest that unified approaches to the legal status of the Caspian Sea could be reached already today.

The Kazakh foreign minister also called upon the delegates for an early development of a mechanism to impose a moratorium on sturgeon fishing.

“All of us seek to develop effective mechanisms to protect our national interests, and our common purpose is to ensure compatibility and efficiency of our strategies,” the foreign minister added.

“The five Caspian littoral states have their own sovereign interests and when it comes to five-party talks, it is important to understand that the interests of one country should not contradict the interests of the other four,” Kairat Sarybai, deputy foreign minister of Kazakhstan, said at a press conference following the session. In this regard, he said, approaches, trade-offs and solutions are subject to serious negotiation.

According to Sarybai, this is a task that affects issues of security, economic activity, and transportation. He also underscored that the five states are united in their common desire to develop a dialogue, and the 30th session of the Special Working Group has made significant progress in this direction.

Deputy Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Khalaf Khalafov said the parties had a substantial exchange of opinions on the draft convention during the meeting. “The negotiation process is progressive, we have agreed upon a large number of issues, and are likely to reach an agreement on the text of the convention in the near future,” Khalafov said.

“The session has brought us closer to the finish line. We have moved forward”, Mehdi Akhundzadeh, the Iranian President’s special representative on the issues of the Caspian Sea, said at the press conference.

Alexander Golovin, Russian President’s special representative on delimitation and delineation of Russian state borders, said the negotiations were close to the final outcome and that solutions concerning the convention that would create “conditions for the convening of the fourth summit of the Caspian littoral states in Moscow” would soon be elaborated. He also expressed hope the member states would be able to consider a draft agreement on sturgeon conservation proposed by Russia at the upcoming session of the commission on water and biological resources of the Caspian Sea in Baku in December, and “thus lay the basis for implementing the resolution of the Baku summit.”

Murad Atajanov, chairman of the state-owned enterprise on the issues of the Caspian Sea under the President of Turkmenistan, was positive about the negotiations held in Astana, “because some issues previously considered controversial have been resolved”.

In November 2003, the Caspian countries signed the Framework Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea.

To date, three out of five littoral states, namely Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Russia signed bilateral and trilateral agreements on the legal status of the Caspian Sea, including the 1998 Agreement between Russia and Kazakhstan on the delineation of the northern part of the Caspian Sea and a protocol to the Agreement, the 2001 Agreement between Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan on the delineation of the Caspian Sea and a protocol to the Agreement, and the 2003 multilateral agreement between Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Russia on the junction point of the delineation lines of the adjacent sections of the Caspian Sea. The agreement of all five littoral states is necessary for the conclusion of a universal treaty on the status of the Caspian Sea.