Publication: Monitor Volume: 1 Issue: 104

At a conference in Almaty September 27- 28, foreign ministry legal department heads of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Iran prepared a draft document on the Caspian Sea’s legal status. Coordinated by Kazakhstan’s deputy foreign minister Vyacheslav Gizzatov, the draft provides for dividing Caspian littoral waters, shelf, and mineral resources into individual economic zones of the five riparian states. Russia, which demands common exploitation of Caspian resources, declined to attend. Its deputy foreign minister Albert Chernyshev told Moscow media that ministry officials were "very busy" at this time. The ministry had offered the same reason when it had requested, and obtained, a three-week postponement of the conference. In Almaty, however, Gizzatov informed the press that Russia’s foreign ministry had cabled its refusal to attend the conference, citing "lack of political will to achieve positive results." (14)

The five riparian countries had agreed at a July conference also in Almaty to create a negotiating mechanism for drafting legal status of what Russia regards as an indivisible lake whose mineral and other resources are common property, whereas the other countries define it as an inland sea, divisible along with its shelf resources into national sectors. Russia’s legal doctrine is meant to entitle it to share in the exploitation of the immense undersea deposits of oil and gas belonging to other Caspian states, and which are now starting to be tapped under contracts with Western firms. At a conference in Tehran in August, Russia presented a draft document which the other four countries found unacceptable; but it was agreed to continue the talks at Almaty and beyond. The four countries have scheduled a follow-up conference for December.

Turkmenistan Resists Becoming a "Juicy Chunk."