ASTANA – ASWAQ
An important summit of Caspian Sea states will be held in Kazakhstan’s port city, Aktau on August 12. It is the fifth such summit, but this is the biggest one. After 2 decades and more than 50 meetings of working groups, the five countries — Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan — are reportedly prepared to sign a convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea.
After decades of haggling, the five countries with Caspian Sea coasts will see who owns what in the world’s largest lake. An accord would not only clarify oil and gas rights but also accommodate development of a long-discussed pipeline to carry gas from Turkmenistan to Europe via Azerbaijan and Turkey.
Earlier Foreign ministers of those countries raised hope for an accord by declaring they had resolved the many traditional points of conflict. Not least among those is whether to treat the Caspian legally as a sea or as the lake that, technically, it is. Hope grew further in late June, when Russian authorities published a final draft of the convention awaiting signatures in Aktau.
Observers believe that if the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea is carefully signed during this summit, this history will gain a symbolic value. The draft defines territorial waters as ending 15 nautical miles from coastlines, with fishing rights extending seaward a further 10 nautical miles.
Ashgabat and Astana regularly discuss partnership in the gas sector and the development of cross-border mineral deposits. Kazakhstan is involved in a major project for the delivery of Central Asian gas to China. CNPC has been purchasing Turkmen fuel from 2009 through the territory of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.
Among other significant areas of cooperation, there is the transport sector. A project to build a transnational Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran railway was completed in December 2014. Goods can be transported without any restrictions to the countries of the Persian Gulf, to the Indian Ocean and to Europe thanks to this route.
According to the draft, signatories would be able to approve marine pipelines bilaterally, giving new life to plans for the Turkmen gas pipeline and an oil pipeline between Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.
The lack of an agreed legal status has been one of the factors that has prevented construction of the Trans-Caspian Pipeline (TCP) to carry some 30 billion cubic meters (bcm) of Turkmen gas across the Caspian seabed to Azerbaijan, where it could be loaded into pipeline networks leading to Europe.