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Iran - Caspian Sea

Since the break-up of the Soviet Union, "equitable" distribution of Caspian Sea resources was an item of contention between the five littoral states: Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Russia and Azerbaijan. According to press articles, the Caspian is said to contain some 12% of the world's oil reserves, as well as huge deposits of natural gas.

In past treaties signed between Iran and the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1940s, the two parties designated the Caspian as a lake; agreeing to divide the body of water into two parts and commonly share resources - which at the time was mostly fishing. If a body of water is labeled a "sea" then international treaties come into play, obligating access permits to foreign vessels - whereas if a body of water is designated a "lake," there are no such obligations.

Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan, did not recognize the earlier treaties between Iran and the Soviet Union, and the five states had been attempting to "equitably" resolve issues pertaining to energy resources, fishing rights and security since 1991. The former Soviet States signed a host of bilateral treaties amongst themselves, and with Russia --demarcating borders and apportioning resources; none of which are recognized by Iran. Iran was insistent that a single, multilateral agreement between all five parties be signed.

Security and military rights are a topic of much concern. In October of 2007, the five States agreed not to let foreign militaries use Caspian waters as a launching point for any potential attacks. Iranian Commander Seyyed Mahmood Mousavi called for the prevention of any "alien" presence in the Caspian Sea on 18 April 20088, saying that the littoral states do not want the Caspian to "become like the Persian Gulf."

After failing to convince the other four members to stay with the original 50/50 split - forcing Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Russia to share half of the Caspian resources, Iran "compromised" pushing for an "equal" 1/5 division of the Caspian among the five countries. Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan have consistently insisted that each state should be awarded a proportionate share of the Caspian based on its coastline. Under this scheme, Iran would only be eligible for roughly 11%-13% of the Caspian. Russia initially suggested a more complex equation of dividing the seabed (and the mineral resources that go along with it) along a sectoral line and sharing the surface (a.k.a. the fishing rights) commonly - with each state receiving an exclusive zone and sharing the center.

In 2007 the the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy, or IRIN, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy, or IRGCN, underwent a reorganization that included new base openings and a re-division of duties between the navies. Although the two navies had traditionally shared operations in the Caspian Sea, Persian Gulf, and Gulf of Oman, the reorganization split the IRIN and IRGCN areas of responsibility. The IRIN was assigned to the Gulf of Oman and Caspian Sea, while the IRGCN was given full responsibility for operations in the Persian Gulf.

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Page last modified: 20-05-2022 17:50:46 ZULU