Putin ratifies convention on Caspian Sea’s legal status

Putin ratifies convention on Caspian Sea’s legal status

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law on ratifying the Convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea, which confirms the exclusive competence of littoral states in solving issues related to this sea and takes into account the interests of security and protection of Russia’s state border. The document was published on the official legal information portal today.

The Convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea was signed by Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan at the Fifth Caspian summit, which was held in Aktau, Kazakhstan, on August 12, 2018. An effort on drafting it had been underway since 1996. Putin submitted the document for ratification by the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, on July 30. The law on ratification was backed by the Russian MPs on September 19 and endorsed by the upper house, the Federation Council, on September 25. The convention is designed to consolidate the regime of navigation and the collective use of its waters.

The document contains provisions outlining the mechanisms of establishing borders of territorial waters and fishing zones and dividing the Caspian Sea’s bottom and mineral resources into sectors, as well as the terms for laying undersea cables and pipelines and the issues related to other aspects of cooperation between the littoral states.

Under the convention, each party will have territorial waters with the width of not more than 15 nautical miles. The Caspian Sea waters’ will be divided into internal waters, territorial waters, fishing zones and the common body of water.

The document stipulates that the vessels flying the flags of the countries, which are parties to the convention, will be able to cross territorial waters without entering internal waters, and in this case they won’t have to be on a raid. The need for this will arise only if ships enter internal waters. A party should not impede the passage of vessels flying the flags of other parties through its territorial waters, the text says. The convention provides for the right to conduct marine scientific research outside territorial waters.

A scientist of the Institute for Economics of the RAS, Alexander Karavaev, speaking to Vestnik Kavkaza, noted that the Convention has important legal significance. "There was no systematic legal document combining and codifying relations across the water area in economic and other activities. There was a set of national by-laws and codes that defined the activities of each country, as well as a package of bilateral and tripartite agreements," he said.

"It is important to understand that ratification of the Convention is not directly related to the practical cooperation of states. Now there is international law that codifies relations between states (Caspian Convention is an element of this international law), and there is a practice that may or may not contradict international law. While, unlike the Criminal Code or international documents, which have penalty system, the Convention has no such system," Alexander Karavaev added.

The chief researcher at the Center for the Study of Central Asia, the Caucasus and Urals-Volga Region of the Institute for Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Stanislav Pritchin, earlier noted that, first of all, the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea was adopted in order to establish clear rules and security obligations of the Caspian states. "The Convention has the highest status in terms of international agreements, because it regulates the entire corpus of Caspian issues," he said in the first place.

"In the current situation, when the tension around Iran is growing, when the United States is trying to shake the situation and involve regional players in the geopolitical confrontation by all means, the Convention is a very important document guaranteeing that the Caspian states will not be involved in this confrontation. The Convention prohibits to participate in the aggression of third countries against partners under an agreement," Stanislav Pritchin emphasized.