Publication: Monitor Volume: 1 Issue: 102

Delegates of the foreign ministries of Caspian countries Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Iran, but not of Russia convened September 26 in Almaty to discuss a Kazakh-prepared draft convention on the Caspian sea’s legal status. Presenting the document, Kazakh deputy foreign minister Vyacheslav Gizzatov said that Kazakhstan insists on: defining the Caspian as an inland sea, not a lake; demarcating the territorial waters, seabed, and other zones of each riparian country; and the right of each country to independently plan and carry out the development of mineral resources in its own sector. Gizzatov’s draft also rejects the idea of common ownership of the Caspian sea and its resources on the grounds that it lacks international legal precedent and would not appeal to foreign investors. (16)

Kazakhstan’s position is shared by Azerbaijan (which in fact leads in affirming it) and Turkmenistan. Their stand conflicts with that of Russia which defines the Caspian as a lake, rejects its division in national sectors, and promotes the doctrine of "common ownership" and "joint use" of resources. Russia’s position is intended to give it a share in the other Caspian states’ resources and a voice in their decisions about developing those resources. Iran verbally supports Russia’s position for political reasons, but Iran itself has never abided by those precepts in using its own sector’s resources.

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