New Caspian Sea Agreement

The Caspian summit in August was the last step in 22 years of discussions and quarrels over the status of the sea, but this is by no means a definitive comprehensive agreement. In particular, ownership of the southern part of the seabed (and what it contains) is still pending. Iran, with the smallest coast, is still reluctant. However, the agreement does not limit the respective sectors of the contracting parties. This delimitation is left to bilateral or multilateral agreements between the parties, taking due account of the “generally accepted principles and norms of international law.” Prior to the conclusion of the Convention, Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan had already concluded agreements on the delimitation of their respective seabed areas and the establishment of certain rules for the joint development of cross-border deposits (these seabed demarcations are shown in the map of available sketches). Iran and Turkmenistan have consistently opposed such agreements if the Caspian Sea is not determined. Although the agreement does not explicitly mention existing bilateral and trilateral agreements on seabed delimitation, the specific provisions of the convention, which authorizes and orders coastal states to enter into delimitation agreements, appear to eliminate the uncertainties associated with these agreements. Another key factor is that the borders of the seabed still need to be negotiated (although they are now subject to bilateral, not multilateral, agreements as is currently the case). 3. Submarine cables and pipelines are defined in accordance with the contracting party whose seabed sector must be crossed by cable or pipeline. In principle, it is also permissible to build underwater pipelines under agreements between the countries concerned, instead of needing the agreement of the five states. 11. Bilateral and multilateral marine scientific research is conducted by mutual agreement between the parties concerned.

The parties operate in the Caspian Sea for the navigation, harvest, exploitation and protection of aquatic biological resources, exploration and exploitation of the seabed and soil resources, and other activities in accordance with this agreement, other agreements between the parties in accordance with this convention and their national legislation. Implementation of the Actau agreements is expected to take place in a year or two.

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