Constitution of the Caspian Sea
On August 12, Aktau hosted the fifth Caspian Summit, which was attended by President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, President of Iran Hassan Rouhani, President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov. After 22 years of negotiations and quest for a compromise, summit meetings in 2002 in Ashgabat, in 2007 in Tehran, in 2010 in Baku and four years ago in Astrakhan, the Caspian knot was finally untied, and five countries agreed on the joint use of the Caspian sea.
What was the outcome?
The main wealth is hidden under the water column: the Caspian sea shelf is an important part of the world hydrocarbon base. Geological services of the Caspian countries estimate the prospective resources of the sea in more than 56 billion tons of oil equivalent, the remaining recoverable reserves – almost 8 billion tons. Some of these reserves are being developed, others have been at risk until recently due to the uncertainty of the legal status of the reservoir.
The leaders of the five countries signed a fundamental document in Aktau – Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea, which has already been named by experts as the Constitution of the Caspian sea. The document legally establishes that the reservoir is recognized as the sea, but with a special status, because it is surrounded by land on all sides. Maritime status allows the countries of the region to conduct production activities in the Caspian sea as independently as, for example, in the Gulf of Mexico. But just as in the Gulf of Mexico, oil and gas, construction and other production projects should be implemented with strict environmental safety.
The presidents adopted a joint decision on the development of a mechanism of five-party regular consultations under the auspices of the ministries of foreign Affairs at the level of Deputy Ministers /Plenipotentiaries of the Caspian countries and that the first round of consultations will be held no later than six months from the date of signing of the Convention. A draft agreement on the methodology for establishing straight baselines will be developed and agreed upon as a matter of priority.
In addition, a number of documents regulating the main aspects of multilateral cooperation in the region were signed at the forum in Aktau. The agreement between the governments of the Caspian countries on trade and economic cooperation and the Agreement on cooperation in the field of transport will contribute to the further strengthening and development of cooperation in industrial, trade, energy, transport and logistics, innovation, tourism, information and other areas. The need to prepare a five-party agreement on cooperation in the field of maritime transport in the Caspian sea was noted.
In order to develop contacts between entrepreneurs and business structures of the five countries, it was proposed to hold the first Caspian economic forum in 2019 in Turkmenistan.
Regional security issues were discussed in a separate block. The signed intergovernmental Agreement on the prevention of incidents in the Caspian sea declares respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity, non-damage to each other's security, compliance with agreed confidence-building measures in the sphere of military activities in the spirit of predictability and transparency, strengthening regional security and stability.
In order to ensure the interests of the coastal countries in the sphere of security, the presidents confirmed the need to develop and adopt coordinated confidence-building measures in the Caspian sea in the field of military activities at sea. The Convention itself provides for the basic principle – non-presence in the Caspian sea of the armed forces not belonging to the countries-participants of the Convention. The Protocols on cooperation in the field of combating terrorism, organized crime, cooperation of border agencies to the Agreement on cooperation in the field of security in the Caspian sea dated November 18, 2010, were also signed (Comment by Kazakhstan Foreign Ministry's Ambassador at Large Zulfia Amanzholova on the agreements reached in Aktau and signed documents, as well as the full text of the Convention, you can find in Petroleum Journal No.5-2018).
How did it go
According to the journalists covering the Summit, the communication of the top officials of the Caspian countries was not necessarily trouble-free and complimentary. After all, despite the fact that the Caspian sea unites them geographically, there are too many political contradictions and personal grievances between them.
The host of the meeting, President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev, was in a good mood on August 12. Given that this historical document, which has been discussed for more than two decades, is signed not somewhere, but in Kazakhstan, in the city of Aktau. "Heads of state, colleagues! I am pleased to welcome everyone to the Fifth Caspian Summit in Aktau! It is symbolic that the meeting coincides with the international day of the Caspian sea!" – Nursultan Nazarbayev opened the Summit, after which he announced the agenda of the meeting.
However, the Azerbaijani President, who was the first to speak, set not the festive tone of the conversation. He began to reproach his colleagues for the lack of support of his country and him personally in confrontation with Armenia. "Armenia is carrying out ethnic cleansing of our people," Ilham Aliyev said without hesitating the presence of journalists. The ambiguity of the situation was given by the fact that two of the 5 countries present here (Russia and Kazakhstan) are Armenia's partners in the Eurasian Economic Union.
The atmosphere was even more heated by the President of Iran, who during his speech began to make claims to colleagues that they allow external players to the Caspian sea, which belongs to only five coastal countries. It is unacceptable, said the head of Iran, to allow countries that are not connected with the region to build military bases on the Caspian sea. It is clear that it was primarily about the United States, and it was a fairly transparent hint of the commitments undertaken by Kazakhstan to provide its Caspian ports for the transit of U.S. military cargo to Afghanistan.
The Russian President Vladimir Putin hastened to reduce the degree of discussion, calling the Summit "extraordinary" and "truly epoch-making". "A modern and balanced international agreement has been developed on the basis of consensus and mutual consideration of interests," – he said. And he stressed that the interaction of the Caspian countries has received a modern legal basis for many years to come. "It is fundamentally important that the Convention enshrines the exclusive and sovereign rights of the five countries to the Caspian sea, responsible development and use of its subsoil and other resources, reliably guarantees the solution of all relevant issues on the principles of consensus and mutual consideration of interests, ensures the truly peaceful status of the Caspian sea, the absence of the armed forces of non-regional countries in the Caspian sea," – the President of Russia said. "I believe that we should consider the signing of the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea as the start of cooperation between our countries in the new conditions," – the host of the meeting, President Nazarbayev, concluded.
Despite the controversy, the main value of the Caspian Convention is that it opens the way for cooperation in the development of cross-border hydrocarbon fields and the construction of Trans-Caspian trunk pipelines, which will entail a new inflow of investment in the region.