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Russia and 4 Other Nations Sign Accord to Settle Dispute on Caspian Sea

Russia and 4 Other Nations Sign Accord to Settle Dispute on Caspian Sea

MOSCOW — The five countries with shorelines on the Caspian Sea agreed on Sunday to a formula for dividing up the world’s largest inland body of water and its potentially vast oil and gas resources. The leaders of Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan signed the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea,…


MOSCOW — The five countries with shorelines on the Caspian Sea agreed on Sunday to a formula for dividing up the world’s largest inland body of water and its potentially vast oil and gas resources.

The leaders of Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan signed the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea, which the Kremlin said in a statement “reflected a balance of interests” of the seashore nations.

Landlocked and less salty than the ocean, the Caspian Sea was regarded by Iran and the Soviet Union — until the Soviet collapse — as a lake, with a border neatly dividing the two countries’ territories.

But when new seaside nations emerged, they sought either their own zones of Caspian territory or a new approach to governing the sea that would classify it as international water with territorial zones and neutral areas, though it has no outlet to the world’s oceans.

China’s “One Belt One Road” policy, according to Shota Utiashvili, a senior fellow at the Rondeli Foundation for Strategic and International Studies in Georgia.

Trade in and out of Central Asia had been diverted not to Russia but to Iran, with Chinese backing, he said. And some Central Asian energy exports have not gone to Russia, but instead east to China because of difficulties exporting west over the Caspian Sea, he added.

Turkmenistan, frustrated in its effort to build a trans-Caspian gas pipeline, has also started work on a pipeline east through Afghanistan to Pakistan and India, known as the TAPI pipeline. The Afghan government has said it could help resolve the war through economic development.

The pipeline passes through Taliban-controlled territory in southern Afghanistan, but it is supported by both the United States and the insurgents as positive for the country’s future.

While the agreement on Sunday settled the status of the sea’s surface and created a formula for dividing the subsea resources, the delineation of new borders could prove contentious.

Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan have divided the seabed in the north, but Iran, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan have disputed claims to petroleum deposits in the southern portion of the sea. The Caspian basin is seen as an important source of oil for world markets outside the Middle East.

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