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    Russia Ratifies Caspian Convention


Iran is now the only littoral state yet to sign the document aimed at ending a decades-long dispute over the Caspian's legal status.

by: Joseph Murphy

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Russia Ratifies Caspian Convention

Russia has ratified last year’s convention on the Caspian Sea’s status, leaving Iran as the only littoral state yet to approve the agreement.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law ratifying the convention, according to documents published by the government on October 1. Prior to this, the law was adopted by the Russia’s lower house of parliament, the State Duma, on September 19, and approved by its upper house, the Federation Council, on September 25.

Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan agreed on the convention in August 2018, marking the first concrete step towards ending a decades-long dispute over the Caspian’s legal status. The deal established zones of jurisdiction and fishing rights, while prohibiting foreign military in the region. But further negotiations are needed to determine how the sea’s estimated 48bn barrels of oil and 8 trillion m3 of gas are to be carved up among the five littoral states.

Tehran has not said when it intends to ratify the document. Unlike the other littoral states, Iran has been unable to advance any offshore oil and gas projects in the region, with development hindered by geological difficulties and US sanctions. It therefore stands to gain little in the short term from settling the Caspian dispute.

Iran is also concerned that the Caspian convention could provide Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan with an opportunity to advance their Trans-Caspian gas pipeline project, which could bring Turkmen gas to Europe. Iran, which also has its eye on European markets, views the pipeline as a threat. Under the convention, any littoral state could seek to block a pipeline project in the Caspian based on its environmental impact, even if the pipeline in question does not enter their territorial waters. But parties involved in the project could dispute this objection.