5 Countries and 1 Sea
Peace coming to the Caspian Sea…
The Caspian, which was defined as the lake or sea of Russia and Iran in previous years, started to become a “problem” after Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, which gained their independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union. So what was the basis of tensions in the Caspian Sea, a sea rich in natural gas and oil?
The primary problem was that there was no answer to the question of whether the Caspian was a lake or a sea. If the sea is accepted, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea will be valid, if the lake is accepted, the riparian countries will have to decide together. Russia and Iran argued that the Caspian is a closed lake and that every country should share it equally regardless of their sovereignty. However, in the Caspian Sea, Kazakhstan (2320), Turkmenistan (1200), and Azerbaijan (955) had the longest coastlines, while Iran (724) and Russia (695) had the least coasts. Despite this, these countries that wanted “equal sharing”, so to speak, pursued “cunning” for years.
It can be said that both sides of Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan support the idea of ” dividing the Caspian into areas of sovereignty ”. As usual, Turkmenistan played ‘jazz’ on this issue and argued that the arguments of Iran and Russia should continue until all countries agreed. Because the disagreement between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan over the oil fields and the rapprochement between Iran and Turkmenistan brought about by the pipeline resulted in Ashgabat sitting on opposite sides with Baku. However, at the OSCE Istanbul Summit in 1999, Turkey and Kazakhstan intervened and reached an agreement between the two countries, which sharpened the ranks in the Caspian issue. After 16 years of negotiations between the leaders, an agreement was reached in 2018.
Within the scope of the agreement, 15 nautical miles of territorial waters were granted to each state in the Caspian Sea, and a 25-nautical-mile fishing area was allocated. It was stated that joint decisions will be valid in the activities in the other remaining areas. If I summarize in order not to bore into technical details, it can be said that all parties to the agreement made concessions, but Iran and Russia were the countries that made the most concessions.
The reason that made Putin set up the Caspian table…
The Caspian Sea, which was signed in 2018 between Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Iran and Russia, and where the 27-year-old problem was resolved with an agreement, is a very important sea due to the many different dynamics in its background, the interest of non-riparian countries and its rich underground resources.
There are approximately 50 billion barrels of oil and 9 trillion m3 of natural gas in the Caspian. The 5 riparian countries are also rich in oil and natural gas. The USA and the West want to reach the resources of these countries in terms of gas and oil by establishing close relations with Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. These countries are also looking for an alternative to Russia. On the other hand, Chinese administrators, who follow the events with squinted eyes, are also buying Turkmen gas via pipeline and are doing their best to increase their effectiveness in Central Asia, just like in Africa. The arrival of the USA worries Russia and Iran, while the “increasing influence of China in the former Soviet territory” worries Russia.
In the background of Russia and Iran going to the Caspian table after 27 years; After Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan started to establish good relations with the West, Chinese President Jinping announced the “One Belt One Road” project for the first time in Kazakhstan (in general, China’s effectiveness in Central Asia) and Exxon The reason lies in the fact that American and British companies such as Mobile and BP control about 27% of the Caspian oil reserves and 40% of the natural gas of Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. Many experts see the opening of Kazakhstan’s two ports to American ships, if not for military activities, months before the agreement, as the trigger that brought Iran and Russia, the ‘former owners’ of the sea, to the table. Because the agreement stipulated that no foreign country other than the riparian countries could have a military presence in the Caspian.
Neither Iran nor Russia wants to face this danger in their backyards. It was a successful step for Moscow that Russia had an agreement accepted here, just like in the Black Sea (Montreux). Of course for Iran too. When we look at it from the point of view of the Turkish states, the area of that length was officially counted as their own region, although not as deep as they wanted.