Russia, Iran, Other Caspian Sea Nations Meet to Settle Oil and Gas Disputes

Russian President Vladimir Putin, second from right, Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev, center, Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, right, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, third from left, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, left, walk during the 5th Caspian summit at the Friendship Palace in Aktau, the Caspian Sea port in Kazakhstan, Sunday, …
Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

Leaders of five Caspian Sea nations — Russia, Kazakhstan, Iran, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan — reportedly signed a historic agreement on Sunday that aims to settle a longstanding dispute over ownership of oil and gas reserves on the landlocked body of water.

The Wall Street Journal noted that the agreement among these nations “could fuel exploration, new pipelines in the landlocked sea.”

While specific details of Sunday’s agreement were not revealed, an early draft of the agreement published in June noted that certain provisions reportedly included defining and regulating “the rights and obligations of each of the countries with respect to the use of the Caspian Sea waters, bottom, subsoil, natural resources and airspace over the body of water.”

The early draft also notes that territorial waters are not permitted to exceed 15 nautical miles in width, and it will allow for each party to “lay submarine cables and pipelines along the bottom of the Caspian Sea.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the agreement “creates conditions for bringing cooperation between the countries to a qualitatively new level of partnership, for the development of close cooperation on different trajectories.”

The Wall Street Journal noted that the Caspian Sea holds Kazakhstan’s giant Kashagan oil field, which is the world’s most expensive oil project. It has cost the nation $50 billion since 2000 and shareholders include Italy’s Eni SpA, France’s Total SA, Anglo-Dutch company Royal Dutch Shell PLC, and the United States’s Exxon Mobil Corp.

The leaders of these five nations reportedly also agreed that everyone would be able to use the surface of the Caspian Sea for activities like travel and fishing.

Breitbart’s John H. Xenakis reported:

Prior to 1991, there were only two littoral states bordering the Caspian Sea — the Soviet Union and Iran. When the Soviet Union split up, suddenly there were five littoral states. Starting in 1996, these five countries attempted to reach agreement on how to split up the seabed among themselves. However, they were never able to reach agreement, and apparently, that’s still true despite Sunday’s “historic” agreement.

The problem is that the Caspian Sea is a unique body of water in the world, and so there are no examples to provide guidance. The Caspian Sea in Central Asia is the largest inland body of water in the world. From the point of view of international law, it’s neither a sea nor a lake. It can’t be a lake because it’s too large, and it can’t be a sea because it’s connected to any of the world’s oceans.

Also, while the agreement is historic, it leaves questions about commercial exploitation unresolved.

Iran has disputed ownership of the Caspian Sea for decades. The southern part of the sea is controlled by Tehran and has been underdeveloped due to sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

Adelle Nazarian is a politics and national security reporter for Breitbart News. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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