AKTAU, Kazakhstan – The foreign ministers of Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan left everything in order on Saturday for the signing of the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea, scheduled for the summit to he held on Sunday by leaders of the five countries at the Kazakh port city of Aktau.
“Despite their positions being diametrically opposed at the beginning, thanks to their diplomatic efforts...a consensus was reached on all matters related to interaction on the Caspian Sea,” Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov said at the meeting.
He said “proof of that is the convention article about the status of the sea that will be presented to the presidents for their signature.”
For his part, the Russian foreign minister issued a statement after the ministers’ meeting expressing Moscow’s satisfaction with the “degree of cooperation” they had achieved and the agreements reached on the work to be undertaken after the signing of the convention.
“We are confident that tomorrow a historic step will be taken, it will be a very important moment for all of us,” Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said at the opening ceremony of the Kuryk multimodal port, a key infrastructure for the development of transport across the Caspian Sea for the New Silk Road.
The Kazakh head of state stressed that there have been 20 years of “complex” negotiations to reconcile the positions of the neighboring countries.
The document to be signed at Sunday’s summit includes the principles that will govern the activities of the signatory nations on the Caspian Sea, as well as matters related to the delimitation of territorial waters and the seabed, navigation, environmental conservation and security.
Regarding security, the draft convention establishes that countries from outside the Caspian cannot have a military presence on its waters.
The Caspian, the largest lake in the world with an area of 370,886 square kilometers, was shared by Moscow and Tehran according to the 1921 and 1940 treaties until the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The emergence of three new coastal states – the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan – forced the rethinking of the Caspian partition and its vast wealth in hydrocarbons
According to various estimates, the large salt lake contains probable oil reserves of 235,000 million barrels below its bed.
Until recently Iran demanded the equitable distribution of the Caspian and its joint use, a position rejected by other countries, such as Russia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, which delimited their sectors by the principle of the equidistant line used in maritime law, but eventually Tehran agreed.
“However, there is some risk that Iran will not sign the convention,” Stanislav Pritchin, an expert with the Valdai International Debate Club and the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Oriental Institute, told EFE.
According to Pritchin, the reinstatement of US sanctions against Tehran could lead the Iranian Government to return to its former position.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Saturday that Russian President Vladimir Putin does not plan to hold any bilateral meetings, in response to a reporter’s question about whether he would have a private meeting with his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, during the summit.
He added, however, that the presidents would have a chance to talk.
To guarantee the security of the Fifth Caspian Summit, Kazakh authorities deployed starting Friday a large police presence plus units of the armed forces.
Aktau Bay is guarded from the sea by a number of coast guard vessels.