The Sixth Caspian Sea Summit boosted cooperation between littoral countries

Map of the drainage area around the Caspian Sea (Credits: Redgeographics, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Geopolitical Report ISSN 2785-2598 Volume 21 Issue 2
Author: Vlad Kondratiev

The sixth summit of the Caspian Sea states underlined the region’s geopolitical importance and the desire of every country involved to resolve legal status and issues and promote cooperation in transport, logistics and trade.

On June 29th, 2022, Ashgabat hosted the Sixth Caspian Summit, which was attended by President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Ibrahim Raisi, President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, President of Turkmenistan Serdar Berdimuhamedov.

The Presidents discussed the most critical issues of five-sided cooperation in the Caspian Sea and the leading international and regional problems of mutual interest.

This high-level meeting was different from many previous ones. Compared to the fourth summit in 2014 or the fifth summit in 2018, in which many documents were signed, including the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea – the Constitution of the Caspian Sea, the main goal of the Sixth Caspian Summit was different. The task was to “synchronise watches”, considering the current international situation and geopolitical processes worldwide. The sixth summit launched a new period in developing relations between the region’s countries, which, of course, are based on previously reached agreements. After the talks, all participants signed a Final Communiqué of the Summit and confirmed all the principles they had previously agreed upon.[1]

One of the key points expressed in the Communiqué was the principle of non-presence of the armed forces of non-Capsian countries in the Caspian Sea, which primarily meets the geopolitical interests of Russia and Iran. This point was already established in the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea.[2] However, the Convention has not yet been ratified by the Islamic Republic of Iran and has no legal force.[3] Therefore, the signing of the final communiqué in Ashgabat eliminates this conflict. Thus, in the period before the ratification of the “Caspian Constitution” by Iran, the heads of the Caspian countries confirmed in writing that they would adhere to the principles of the activities of the parties in the Caspian region enshrined in it. This is the main result of the Sixth Summit in Ashgabat.

Another essential aspect of holding the Pentalateral Forum was Tehran’s declaration of its principled position on the conditions for successful ratification of the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea. Once again, the Iranian leadership confirmed that Tehran is necessary to successfully agree on the provisions of the currently being developed agreement on the Caspian baselines, which are vital to determining the state border lines in the Caspian.

The Iranian position on the Caspian Sea legal status comes from an internal political process in the republic. Many in the Iranian expert community believe that the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea does not fully consider Tehran’s interests.[4] Therefore, officials of the Islamic Republic have repeatedly reported that they will not cede the areas of the water area and the bottom of the Caspian Sea that belong to Tehran and intend to resolve this issue precisely by including wordings that meet their interests in the agreement on the baselines. The sixth Caspian Summit showed that the heads of the Caspian states are sympathetic to the position of Iran and are ready for long and painstaking work in this direction.

The Caspian Sea and transport corridors

Furthermore, in Ashgabat, the heads of the Caspian states paid much attention to the Caspian transport communications, agreeing that the region could become a hub for the East-West and North-South corridors. The presidents understand that it is not necessary to concentrate on one direction.[5] It is essential to develop a multi-format structure. In this regard, attention was primarily focused on the fact that all the Caspian countries have ratified the agreement on cooperation in the transport field.

Notably, the governments of the Caspian states signed the agreement on cooperation in the field of transport during the previous Fifth Caspian Summit in the Kazakh city of Aktau on August 12th, 2018.[6]

Under Article 2 of the agreement, its goal is to develop cooperation between the Caspian countries in the formation and development of the Caspian Sea region as a major international transport and logistics hub with a developed infrastructure and a high level of interaction in international transportation.

Moreover, under Article 3 of the agreement, the Caspian countries agreed to promote the further development of maritime, road, rail, air and multimodal transportation between states, jointly develop and implement measures that contribute to the development of freight traffic between the Caspian states, cooperate on ensuring security in transport, promote the establishment of contacts between transport companies-carriers and cargo owners, development of attractive tariff conditions for transportation.

With the ratification of the agreement on cooperation in the field of transport, a more coordinated and result-oriented joint activity of the countries of the Caspian region might be expected.

Conclusion

Taking into account the fact that regular meetings of the ministers of transport of the Caspian states are called upon to become the main mechanism for implementing the agreement, in the near future, we should expect meetings of interested departments where specific and verified decisions will be made aimed at creating a large international transport and logistics hub in the Caspian Sea.

Sources

[1] Kaspiskiy Vestnik (2022) Коммюнике Шестого каспийского саммита (Communiqué of the Sixth Caspian Summit). Link: http://casp-geo.ru/16253-2/.

[2] President of Russia (2018) Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea. Link: http://en.kremlin.ru/supplement/5328.

[3] Michał Pietkiewicz (2021) Legal status of Caspian Sea – problem solved?, Marine Policy Vol. 123, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2020.104321.

[4] Luke Coffey (2022) Iran’s Simmering Discontent in the Caspian Sea, Hudson. Link: https://www.hudson.org/research/17934-iran-s-simmering-discontent-in-the-caspian-sea.

[5] Yelena Kalyuzhnova, Richard Pomfret (2021) Trade Corridors in the Caspian Region: Present and Future, ADBI Working Papers N. 1266. Link: https://www.adb.org/publications/trade-corridors-caspian-region-present-future.

[6] (2018) The Caspian Sea Treaty, Strategic Comments Vol. 24(9), i-ii, doi:10.1080/13567888.2018.1557841.


Disclaimer. The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpecialEurasia. The report is in media partnership with Kaspiskiy Vestnik.