The presidents of the five states bordering the resource-rich Caspian Sea have signed a historic convention on the sea’s legal status after more than two decades of discussions.
The deal was signed by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his counterparts from Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan, Vladimir Putin, Ilham Aliyev, Nursultan Nazarbayev and Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, respectively, after the 5th Caspian Summit in the Kazakh port city of Aktau on Sunday.
The Caspian Sea convention has been drawn up in 24 articles with the most important highlights being a ban on military presence of all foreign countries in the sea and transit of military consignments belonging to foreign countries.
The convention emphasizes that the Caspian Sea belongs to all littoral states, prohibiting establishment and handing over of any kind of military bases to foreign countries.
The Caspian Sea Legal Regime Convention also puts emphasis on sovereignty and sovereign rights of littoral states while recognizing their right to decide on the sea.
Caspian states sign six documents for strategic, economic cooperation
In a related development also on Sunday, high-ranking officials of the five Caspian Sea littoral states signed six documents for strategic and economic cooperation in the presence of their respective countries’ presidents.
The sides agreed to cooperate in transportation, trade and economy, the fight against terrorism, and the battle against organized crime as well as border security.
Caspian Sea states will continue talks on unresolved issues: Zarif
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif earlier commended the solidarity among the Caspian Sea littoral states, saying that the five countries would further continue cooperation on “unresolved issues.”
“Day of solidarity of Caspian Littoral States: Codifying cooperation on environment, shipping, fisheries, sustainable development & security w/o foreign military presence,” Zarif said in a post on his official Twitter account on Sunday.
He added that the five Caspian Sea states agreed to “continue friendly dialog on unresolved issues of delimitation & shares of sea & its resources.”
Addressing a meeting of the Caspian Sea states’ foreign ministers on Saturday night, Zarif said the convention on the sea’s legal status would be a very important step, which would put an end to 21 years of negotiations.
“The signing of this convention is not an end to all negotiations and measures in the Caspian Sea, but it is in fact a turning and start point to implement the agreements and supervise the implementation as well as open the [future] talks to sign new and necessary agreements,” the top Iranian diplomat pointed out.
Before heading to Aktau, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said under the convention, all legal issues of the sea should be implemented through the consensus of the five littoral states, stressing that the agreement did not include dividing the waters.
Iran’s President is in Kazakhstan to take part in a summit of the five Caspian littoral states to conclude a landmark convention on the legal status of the landlocked body of water.
“The convention stipulates that all legal issues of the Caspian Sea are operational and applicable only through the consensus of the five countries, which is very important and fundamental,” he said.
Speaking to IRIB in an interview on Saturday, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said, “We have to a large extent made good progress and maybe more than 80 percent of the points demanded by the [littoral] states have been considered and included in this convention.”
The Caspian Sea is the largest enclosed body of water by area and is variously classified as the world’s largest lake or a full-fledged sea.
The Caspian Sea littoral states have been discussing a convention on the sea’s legal status for years, which will finally turn out to be a comprehensive document outlining the duties and rights of the five littoral states as well as the framework of cooperation among these countries.