Five na­tions agree on di­vi­sions to oil-rich bed of Caspian Sea

The Star Early Edition - - INTERNATIONAL - Olzhas Auye­zov

IRAN and four ex-Soviet na­tions, in­clud­ing Rus­sia, agreed in prin­ci­ple yes­ter­day on how to di­vide up the po­ten­tially huge oil and gas re­sources of the Caspian Sea, paving the way for more en­ergy ex­plo­ration and pipe­line projects.

How­ever, the de­lim­i­ta­tion of the seabed, the cause of most dis­putes, will re­quire ad­di­tional agree­ments be­tween lit­toral na­tions, Ira­nian Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani said.

For al­most three decades, the five lit­toral states – Rus­sia, Iran, Kaza­khstan, Turk­menistan and Azer­bai­jan – have ar­gued over how to di­vide the world’s big­gest en­closed body of wa­ter.

While some coun­tries have pressed ahead with large off­shore projects, such as the Kasha­gan oil field off Kaza­khstan’s coast, dis­agree­ment over the sea’s le­gal sta­tus has pre­vented other ideas from be­ing im­ple­mented.

One of those is a pipe­line across the Caspian that could ship nat­u­ral gas from Turk­menistan to Azer­bai­jan and then fur­ther to Europe, al­low­ing it to com­pete with Rus­sia in the Western mar­kets.

Some lit­toral states have also dis­puted the own­er­ship of sev­eral oil and gas fields, which has de­layed de­vel­op­ment.

The dis­pute be­gan with the fall of the Soviet Union, which had had a clearly de­fined Caspian bor­der with Iran. In ne­go­ti­a­tions with post-Soviet na­tions, Tehran has in­sisted on ei­ther split­ting the sea into five equal parts or jointly de­vel­op­ing all of its re­sources.

None of its neighbours have agreed to those pro­pos­als and three of them – Rus­sia, Kaza­khstan and Azer­bai­jan – ef­fec­tively split the north­ern Caspian be­tween each other us­ing me­dian lines.

Post-Soviet is­sue

Azer­bai­jan, how­ever, has yet to agree on how to di­vide sev­eral oil and gas fields with Iran and Turk­menistan, in­clud­ing the Ka­paz/Ser­dar field with re­serves of some 620 mil­lion bar­rels of oil.

The three coun­tries have tried to de­velop the dis­puted fields while at times us­ing war­ships to scare off con­trac­tors hired by other sides. As a re­sult, none of the dis­puted projects has made much progress.

Speak­ing af­ter the sign­ing yes­ter­day, all five lead­ers praised it as his­toric event, but pro­vided lit­tle de­tail about pro­vi­sions on split­ting the seabed.

How­ever, Rouhani said bor­der de­lim­i­ta­tion would re­quire fur­ther work and sep­a­rate agree­ments.

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