LOOKING FOR A WAY TO RESOLVE THE LEGAL STATUS OF THE CASPIAN SEA: INTERNATIONAL LAW PROVIDES NO ANSWER
Viktoria Kondaurova, M.A. in International Relations, chief specialist at the Organizational-Analytical Department of the Integration Committee Secretariat, Eurasian Economic Community (Almaty, Kazakhstan)
As early as the 18th-19th centuries, the political disagreements among Great Britain, Russia, and Turkey over the Caspian Sea region brought about significant changes in its diplomatic reality. After World War I and II, the policy of the great powers also changed the diplomatic landscape of this region, which, despite all of the disputes, remained in the center of international attention. Control over the Caspian began to largely be viewed within the framework of the influence of the two main powers in the region: the Soviet Union and Persia.
Later, when geological research determined the potential of the minerals on the seabed, particularly oil and natural gas, the world once more turned its attention to the region, this time for economic considerations. By the second half of the 20th century, globalization and the world market had become part and parcel of current reality, which meant that economic interests too had spread far beyond the framework of the national market. The sea’s status was settled between Iran and the Soviet Union: it was divided according to the principle of common usage or condominium (common property). But no mention was made of ownership, division, or use of the sea’s resources, thus the question of the Caspian’s legal status has become pertinent.
The situation became even more aggravated at the beginning of the 1990s with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the formation of the new sovereign states in the region. The former Soviet republics, countries that are now independent of Moscow’s policy, along with Iran and the Soviet Union’s legal successor, Russia, began to declare their rights to the resources of the Caspian Sea, and its legal status became one of the most important and difficult-to-resolve international problems. It has been difficult to find a satisfactory answer for all the parties concerned to a question that affects national interests, the environmental aspects of the Caspian Basin, the interests of oil and gas companies, as well as the very sensitive security problems of the world powers.
At present these issues are in a state of limbo. Not one of the Caspian states is ready to accept a solution based on consensus, which in turn is creating rather unfavorable conditions for doing business and guaranteeing security in the region. The difficulties and disagreements among the governments of the Caspian countries and between these governments and the oil and gas companies is undermining the political and business environment and making it difficult to ensure successful use of the sea’s resources to the benefit of the socioeconomic development of all these countries.
Despite the fact that analysts believe there is little likelihood of an armed conflict in the Caspian region today due to 1) the developed economic cooperation documented de facto by the efforts of the governments of the Caspian countries and 2) the high level of dependence of the world market on oil, the settlement of the legal status of the Caspian is still one of the main aspects in the foreign policy and economy of many of the states. This article takes a look at how the policy on division of the sea influences diplomatic relations, the economic and………………