11/08/2017, 16.13

Summit between Iran, Russia and Azerbaijan brings a deal on the Caspian Sea much closer

An agreement would encourage investments and cooperation among littoral states. Moscow would be better able to project its power in the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Tehran (AsiaNews/Jamestown Foundation) – A tripartite summit in Tehran on 1 November between Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan laid the foundations for a solution to one of the most sensitive issues of the post-Soviet era: the delimitation of the boundaries in the Caspian Sea.

The meeting left the door open for the other two littoral states, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan

Before the breakup of the Soviet Union, the Caspian Sea was divided between the former and Iran with Moscow holding the largest portion.

Since 1991, the five littoral states have been arguing over how to divide the sea but have not been able to reach an agreement.

Recently, the situation seems to have changed in favour of a consensus. Many of the geopolitical issues that hindered a deal are no longer there, especially thanks to the 2014 agreement banning third-country navies.

All countries on the Caspian Sea would benefit from a deal. In addition to establishing a legal framework for foreign investment and trans-Caspian pipelines, it would allow bilateral and multilateral agreements to protect its sensitive marine ecology, possibly saving the sturgeon, the source of caviar, and facilitate the fight against poaching.

Russia’s newest proposal seems to be gaining support in the other states. Russian negotiators have pressed for an entirely different principle for delimiting the sea: the establishment of coastal economic exclusion zones of 50 to 80 kilometres from shore and common use of all the Caspian’s surface and subsurface area beyond that.

Given Russia’s naval presence relative to that of the other four countries’, Moscow will be the top beneficiary.

Indeed, by settling the Caspian Sea problem, an accord would remove a major irritant and make it easier for these countries to cooperate, leading to an expansion in Russia’s position not only in Iran, something Putin has stressed is extremely important to him, but also in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan as well.

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