That means a new position of Moscow on the legal status of the Caspian sea?
Material posted: Publication date: 02-10-2014

According to numerous reports published in recent times in different sources about opening in Astrakhan for 4th Caspian Summit, the official of the Ministry of foreign Affairs of Russia Igor Bratchikov told reporters on 22 September in the Kremlin that Russia "supports the terms of the Soviet-Iranian agreements of 1921". In accordance with the Agreement, the Caspian sea is considered as a lake and is divided into two sectors.

The position of Russia regarding the legal regime of the Caspian sea is the separation of the area of the seabed on the basis of a modified median line (MML) and retention of the right to water of the Caspian sea for all littoral countries. In accordance with MML, Russia and Azerbaijan receive twenty percent of the seabed, Kazakhstan is thirty percent, Turkmenistan – a little less than seventeen percent and Iran – almost thirteen percent. Russia succeeded to convince Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, and between them the already signed agreement on the basis of the Russian proposal on the delimitation of the seabed of the Northern Caspian sea between the three countries.

Iran, with unstable support of Turkmenistan, has not agreed with the Russian formula and declared that it regards the agreement of Russia with Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan about the division of the seabed is legally invalid. Iran's position is reduced to the division of the Caspian sea on the basis of equality (about twenty percent for each of the five riparian countries), and these sectors should, from the point of view of Iran, to include equally the territory of the seabed and the waters of the Caspian sea.

There is no doubt that until the definition of the new legal regime of the Caspian sea, the old approach based on agreements of 1921 and 1940 between Russia and Iran, is valid. However, the government of Iran in 1979 declared articles 5 and 6 of the 1921 Agreement null and void. The Iranian side explained its decision by saying that since these articles dealt with those Russians who fled Russia after the October Revolution in Iran, they were later overtaken by events. These articles gave the government of Soviet Russia for intervention in Iran if the Iranian authorities will not be able to prevent the threat against Russia from certain sources (he was referring to the Russian counter-revolutionary forces, called the whites) in Iran. The Russian government never officially confirmed the position of Iran with regard to the revocation of these articles of agreement of 1921.

On the basis of the Treaty of friendship between the USSR and Iran of 1921, were restored the right of Iran for navigation in the Caspian sea, which the country was deprived, in accordance with Turkmanchaisk Treaty between Persia and the Russian Empire in 1828. Article 11 of the Agreement of 1921 provided that both parties have equal rights of navigation in all parts of the Caspian sea and there are no restrictions in respect of vessels under national flags of both countries.

The text of this article is clear: "Taking into account the fact that in accordance with the principles listed in article 8 of this Treaty, the Treaty of February 10, 1828, article 8 of which were denied Iran the right of navigation in the Caspian sea, is withdrawn, the High Contracting Parties recognize that the signing of this Treaty both countries have equal rights of freedom of navigation under the national flag in the waters of the Caspian sea".

Based on the above quotes from the statement about the new position of Russia, specialist in international Maritime law Bahman Aghai Diba makes the following conclusions:

1. The Caspian sea is from a geographical point of view the lake and its status as a lake cannot be based on any agreement, including the Treaty of 1921.

2. The agreement of 1921 does not divide the Caspian sea into two parts. It sets free navigation throughout the waters for Iran and Russia as the only littoral States. Later, in 1940 on the basis of this new agreement was signed, including a package of applications that declared the Caspian sea of Iran and Russia.

3. Requirement Rossi on division of Caspian sea into two parts in these conditions, means the division on Northern Caspian sea and South Caspian sea (nothing like that in the agreement of 1921 was not). North of the Caspian sea should belong to Russia, Kazakhstan and parts of Azerbaijan (which has no problems regarding the use of Russian proposals on MML) and southern Caspian sea should belong to Iran, Turkmenistan and partly the Republic of Azerbaijan, which may continue to challenge the positions of both sides regarding boundaries in the Caspian sea.

4. Apparently, the new position of Russia is not expected to have any impact on the agreement between the above mentioned countries about MML.

5. Special emphasis on Russia makes it extremely important for the parts of the agreement of 1921, limiting the right of navigation in the Caspian sea only two countries (of course, currently five). This means the imposition of restrictions on navigation in the Caspian, for all other (non coastal area) countries. In the modern atmosphere of heightened tension between Russia and Western countries is the wave of understandable. Actually, this is the question Russia intends to focus in the most serious manner during the next summit and after it.

6. The mention of the Treaty of 1921 without differentiate relative parts of the agreement announced by Iran unilaterally unenforceable, means a special message for Iran.


Tags: Iran , Russia , Caucasus , Caspian Sea