Caspian states sign landmark legal status convention

ITAR-TASS  Oleg Kuzmin

ITAR-TASS Oleg Kuzmin

"Today, the heads of the five Caspian Sea littoral states signed a document but until its finalization, it requires legal processes and in Iran, it must be approved by the Islamic Consultative Assembly", continued the President. But the issue of how the seabed, which contains rich oil fields, will be delineated between the countries remains subject to further negotiations.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called the convention "a major document" Sunday but noted that it does not bring an end to all disagreements over the sea.

The Caspian Sea is the largest enclosed water body on earth by area, variously classed as the world's largest lake or a full-fledged sea.

Here's what you need to know about the hotly disputed Caspian Sea.

The president also said the summit would include talks on energy industry, oil extraction from the Caspian Sea, as well as oil and gas swap.

The Caspian Sea convention has been drawn up in 24 articles with the most important highlights being a ban on military presence of all foreign countries in the sea and transit of military consignments belonging to foreign countries.

One issue is whether the Caspian Sea should be considered a sea or a lake.

The Caspian is believed to hold some 50 billion barrels of petrol and 300 000 billion cubic metres of natural gas.

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The leaders of the five states bordering the Caspian Sea met in Kazakhstan Sunday to sign a landmark deal on the inland sea which boasts a wealth of oil, gas and sturgeon reserves.

However, with offshore Caspian oil and gas production already nearly at 2 million barrels of oil equivalent per day, the impact from new fields - if and when disputes about their ownership are settled - might be limited.

The Caspian Sea has a number of different species of sturgeon, the fish that yields the highly prized delicacy caviar.

One of those is a pipeline across the Caspian which could ship natural gas from Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan and then further to Europe, allowing it to compete with Russian Federation in the Western markets.

Sunday's agreement potentially opens the sea for underwater oil and natural gas pipelines, which Russian Federation had opposed, ostensibly on environmental grounds, though it has built such pipes in the Black and Baltic seas.

Between 80-90% of the world's caviar is sourced from the Caspian, but the numbers have been falling over the past few decades.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran is a friend and partner of Kazakhstan, and we are always looking to develop and strengthen our ties with Tehran", said the Kazakh president, adding that the two countries have always enjoyed high-level relations.

It remained unclear whether the convention adopted on Sunday would definitely clear a way for the pipeline.

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