Caspian countries strike major energy accord at annual regional summit

Caspian countries strike major energy accord at annual regional summit

Today, leaders of the five countries bordering the Caspian Sea will meet in Aktau, Kazakhstan, where they are expected to

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Photo: Reuters/Alexei Nikolsky

Today, leaders of the five countries bordering the Caspian Sea will meet in Aktau, Kazakhstan, where they are expected to ratify a resolution formally dividing the oil-rich body of water.

Such an agreement has eluded Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan for nearly thirty years, largely due to the Caspian’s official classification. If formally called a lake, international law would give each adjacent state a fifth of its waters. However, classifying it as a sea would distribute its resources based proportionately on owned coastland.

Iran would receive rights to only 14% of the Caspian’s resources under the latter and thus has historically blocked such a deal. However, the current draft strikes a compromise, qualifying the surface as a lake and the soil beneath as a sea. Additionally, it allows for Turkmenistan’s long-delayed undersea pipeline to Europe, a clause Russia has often objected.

Moscow likely pivot in an effort to maintain positive relations with former Soviet states and boost regional economic stability. The ground-breaking accord provides several opportunities to work together and blocks any military presence from non-signatory actors (such as NATO). Thus, following the signing, expect enhanced regional cooperation ranging from defence to resource extraction.

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