The sixth Caspian Sea summit overshadowed by the Ukraine crisis

Driven by the war in Ukraine, the West is pushing to sever the Central Asian states’ relations with Russia and Iran. But Western efforts are producing the opposite, and ties between regional states have widened in recent months. After busy diplomatic days in Tehran due to visits by Central Asian leaders to Iran and a focus on expanding cooperation…

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): Driven by the war in Ukraine, the West is pushing to sever the Central Asian states’ relations with Russia and Iran. But Western efforts are producing the opposite, and ties between regional states have widened in recent months. After busy diplomatic days in Tehran due to visits by Central Asian leaders to Iran and a focus on expanding cooperation, countries bordering the Caspian Sea have now met in Turkmenistan to discuss the status the legal sea. The sixth summit was held on Wednesday in Ashgabat and the presidents of Russia, Iran, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan took part in it.

Iranian President Sayyed Ibrahim Raeisi headed a high-ranking political and economic delegation to Turkmenistan in his first appearance at the conference. At the meeting, as in previous meetings, the legal status of the Caspian Sea, border security and the development of economic cooperation in the region were discussed.

Discuss the legal status of the Caspian Sea

The Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea dates back to Iranian-Soviet agreements signed in 1921 and 1940 under which both parties recognized navigational rights in the sea.

However, in these agreements there is no mention of how to use the resources of the Caspian Sea. They also do not specify the exact boundaries of the two sides. But with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the independence of the former republics of Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, controversy began over the demarcation of maritime borders and the extent of navigation and use. Resource. Over the past 30 years, 3 meetings have taken place. While Iran proposes 20% shares as a fair distribution of the sea, other countries insist on the principle of the length of the coastline, the median line and the modified methods of the median line for sharing .

The last meeting took place in 2018 in Kazakhstan and the Caspian maritime legal regime was signed by the participating leaders. The pact saw leaders agree on the demarcation of maritime and submarine boundaries, non-violation of the breadth of territorial waters 15 nautical miles from the baseline, support for the environment and prevention of armed forces of foreign countries in the Caspian Sea.

According to figures, the Caspian Sea has the largest energy reserves in the world after the Persian Gulf, which doubles its importance. Therefore, Member States are taking action to protect these precious resources as the world grapples with an energy shortage. Bearing in mind that Russian energy is sanctioned by the West for the war against Ukraine, Moscow is trying to strengthen cooperation with its Caspian allies to use energy as leverage against Western countries. As the cooperation of the countries adjacent to the Caspian Sea expands, the security in this region also increases and, therefore, encroachments by the West to plunder its resources are blocked.

Importance of the Caspian Sea after the Ukrainian crisis

In recent months and after the start of the war in Ukraine, the Caspian Sea, due to its transit capacity, has been highly appreciated by the countries of the region. One of the transit routes for goods from Russia to the Indian Ocean, the Caspian Sea has doubled in importance with Western sanctions against Russia.

The North-South Corridor which was unveiled two decades ago had no activity until recently. It was, however, activated recently and the first shipment was transported from Russia to the Indian Ocean. The corridor saw its importance grow as Europe closed its borders with Russia and Central Asian states tried to use it to transfer their goods to various parts of the world. Recently, during the visit of officials from Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan to Iran, the issue of launching and developing railway infrastructure from Central Asia to Iran to improve transit routes was brought to the fore. ‘agenda. With the expansion of railways between Iran and Central Asia, the process of transporting goods from both sides will be faster and can strengthen trade in the region. During his recent meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister, President Raeisi stressed the importance of cooperation between neighboring countries in the Caspian Sea region, and the prohibition of any foreign military presence in the region, as well than the exceptional situation of the Iranian coasts.

Besides the main meeting, bilateral meetings are scheduled between the leaders, the most important of which is President Raeisi and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

Given that this is Putin’s first foreign trip since the start of the war in Ukraine, it is significant. Iran and Russia have always been important economic and political partners, cooperating in many areas, and this relationship has grown even stronger since the Ukraine crisis.

Both subject to harsh Western sanctions, Iran and Russia can strengthen their economic and political partnership to thwart destructive Western policies to break their ranks.

The two countries also play an important role in the North-South Corridor and will try to make extensive use of this transit route for the transfer of goods in the future. Therefore, ensuring the maritime security of the Caspian Sea and developing railway and maritime infrastructure will play an important role in strengthening their cooperation.

Russia is seeking to export its products to world markets via the Caspian Sea, as it is now subject to unprecedented sanctions from the West. Iran’s location at the heart of the North-South corridor with its rail and land transport capabilities makes Tehran the focus of Russia and Central Asian states.

Putin’s presence at the meeting is particularly significant. As Central Asian countries grow increasingly concerned about the repercussions of anti-Russian sanctions, Putin intends to assure them that confrontation with the West cannot harm their cooperation with Moscow and that the partnership will continue firmly .

The legal status of the Caspian Sea is one of the concerns of the riparian states. In his meetings with Central Asian leaders, the Iranian President has emphasized and will emphasize expanding cooperation with regional states as a priority of his administration and as part of an Iranian policy. broader “pivot to the East”. Given the conditions influencing the international order, the Caspian Sea and the corridors connected to it would play a central role in transit, thus reinforcing Iran’s place as a key confluence of trade routes.

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Christi C. Elwood