Fineprint crucial to unlocking Caspian Sea's vast resources

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi

According to RIA Novosti, President of Russia Vladimir Putin, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimukhamedov, President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev and President of Iran Hassan Rouhani signed the Convention at the solemn ceremony that took place in Aktau after the fifth Caspian Summit.

The Caspian Sea in Central Asia is the largest inland body of water in the world.

Talks in the port city of Aktau should help ease tensions in a militarised region where the legal limbo has scuppered lucrative projects and strained relations among nations along the Caspian's 7,000-kilometre (4,350-mile) shoreline.

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

The establishment of USA military bases at the Caspian Sea is "out of question", Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov told Sputnik."Some representatives of Russian media and expert communities do not have a firm grasp of facts on the real situation regarding the transit of U.S. non-military cargo via Kazakhstan ..."

"We have established 15-mile-wide territorial waters whose borders become state borders", Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev told a briefing after signing the Caspian convention.

Its seabed is estimated to hold 50 billion barrels of oil and nearly 8.4 trillion cubic metres of natural gas.

That is why disagreements over how to divide some of its huge oil and gas fields have been numerous - and acrimonious.

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Some littoral states have also disputed the ownership of several oil and gas fields, which delayed their development. On occasion, warships have been deployed to scare off contractors hired by rival countries.

The agreement also offers hope for the Caspian's ecological diversity and its depleted stocks of the beluga sturgeon, whose eggs are prized globally as caviar.

Putin also outlined the prospects of cooperation between the Caspian states in the spheres of tourism, ecology and conservation of bio-resources, suppression of drug trafficking as well as prevention and liquidation of emergency situations, the Kremlin said.

According to a 2016 report from German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, Russia's move to enact the ban received the backing of the other four countries around the Caspian Sea.

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

Nazarbayev said the convention allows for the construction of underwater oil and gas pipelines as well as setting national quotas for fishing and forbids any foreign military presence.

But it remained unclear to observers whether the convention adopted yesterday would definitely clear a way for the pipeline, and no future dates for further discussion were set, beyond an agreement to cooperate.

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