By Hanif Ghafari

A sea and dozens of questions

December 5, 2017

MOSCOW- The meeting of the foreign ministers of the Caspian Sea littoral states in Moscow is an opportunity to draw up the legal and strategic status of the sea.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the number of littoral states increased from two to five. Before the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the determination of the legal regime of the sea was exclusively related to Iran and the Soviet Union.

Now the five countries of Iran, Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan should craft the legal regime. It would no longer be possible to examine and analyze the current relations between the Caspian Sea neighbors with a similar view dating back to 25 years ago.

The main issues surroudning the legal regime of the sea has not yet been fully resolved. The legal regime has become a vague point in the foreign policy equations of all littoral states over the past years. Therefore, the current meeting in Moscow is of great importance. In the meeitng, the foreign ministers will try to resolve the remaining differences over the sea’s legal regime. 

Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister who is in Moscow, said that many differences among the participating countries have been resolved during the past several years. However, there are still disagreements between the five coastal states, which until they are not resolved no comprehensive agrement can be formulated on the legal regime of the sea.

As long as the littoral states do not agree on the legal status, cooperation in the areas of economy and military canno not be fully realized. Therefore, determining the legal regime of the sea is the most important condition for future cooperation. As long as the countries’ share in the sea, their scope of authority, the mechanism for settling disputes and other issues are not fully settled it is unreasonable to talk about other areas of cooperation between the five countries. 

At the end of the meeting, which is a prelude to the summit of presidents of Iran, Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, one can answer many questions and legal uncertainties regarding the Caspian Sea.

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