At issue is the so-named Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea covering the five littoral states – Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. Agreement on whether the vast body of water is a sea or a lake represented a key stage in the negotiations as the regulations differ for each. Caspian oil and gas spoils are one of the prizes, and Russia and Iran want a deal that maintains their stranglehold over Caspian exports to Europe and elsewhere.
Astana Times and Russian news outlets reported that foreign ministers from the five states met in Moscow in December and agreed to a draft convention covering the delineation and use of the Caspian Sea, with the expectation that it would be signed at the summit.
Iran’s FARS news agency reports that an agreement on the legal status of the Caspian Sea is not “practically ready,” as claimed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov following the December meeting. “Delimitation of the Caspian Sea between littoral states had not been an issue on the agenda of last week’s ministerial meeting in Russia,” according to Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi in the FARS report. He dismissed the issue of deciding on shares of participating countries at the summit.
Before 2001, the Soviets and Iran regarded the Caspian as theirs. The collapse of the Soviet Union gave Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan the right, under international regulations, to lay claim to Caspian spoils.
The leaders of the littoral states have met several times since 2002 in search of a deal.
#22447 Updated: 03/13/2018 WRITE THROUGH UPDATE MAR 13 TO REFLECT DISPUTE OVER STAGE OF THE NEGOTIATIONS