Monday, April 14, 2008

Iran to Host Caspian Sea Conference

Caspian Sea and Neighboring Countries
(Harvard Caspian Studies Program)
A special working group meeting on Caspian Sea legal issue will convene in Tehran tomorrow. Representatives of the five Caspian states, Iran, Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, will attend the Tehran conference.

Last October, a Caspian Summit also held in Tehran could not agree on how to divide the Caspian Sea and its rich oil and gas resources among the five bordering countries.

Kazakhstan, along with Russia and Azerbaijan, had been a staunch advocate of the median line legal regime, whereby the Caspian is divided based on the length of coastal lines of each country. Under such arrangement, Iran’s share would be reduced to just 13.6%.

In 1921, Iran signed a treaty with the Soviet Union dividing the Caspian in half between the two countries. The collapse of the Soviet Union and its replacement on Caspian shores with four independent states of Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan did not legally annul the treaty. Under the international law, Iran would still own 50% of Caspian resources, and the Soviet’s share should have been divided among the four states replacing it.

During the Khatami administration, the Iranian government agreed to divide the Caspian according to the “spirit” of the 1921 treaty, thereby giving the five states, including Iran, an equal 20% share of the Caspian.

The Ahmadinejad’s administration is thought to favor an agreement based on the median line legal regime advocated by Russia; with Iran getting 13.6% share.

The talks tomorrow in Tehran are intended to prepare the groundwork for the final agreement among the five countries. The final legal status of the Caspian is scheduled to be formally signed during the next summit in Baku in October 2008.

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