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Caspian Sea: Five countries sign deal to end dispute

True colour satellite image of the Caspian Sea in Asia. It is bounded by Iran, Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan.

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Getty Photos

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The world’s largest inland physique of water is bounded by Iran, Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan

It’s a landmark deal that has been greater than 20 years within the making.

Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan – all bordering the Caspian Sea – have agreed in precept on learn how to divide it up.

Their leaders signed the Conference on the Authorized Standing of the Caspian Sea within the Kazakh metropolis of Aktau on Sunday.

It establishes a system for dividing up its assets and prevents different powers from establishing a navy presence there.

It is a vital step within the easing of regional tensions, however the deal over the world’s largest inland physique of water issues for a number of causes.

Here is what you must know concerning the hotly disputed Caspian Sea.

1. Its authorized standing has been sophisticated

It will be affordable to imagine that the Caspian Sea is, nicely, a sea. However on the coronary heart of this long-running dispute is whether or not or not the 370,000 sq km (143,000 sq mile) physique of landlocked water must be thought of a lake.

Till the dissolution of the Soviet Union (USSR), that is what it was often known as and shared between the us and Iran.

However the arrival into the scene of latest nations that cut up from the us sophisticated this difficulty, with ensuing declare and counterclaim.

Even Russia at occasions argued it was a sea and never a lake.

Why is the distinction so necessary?

Whether it is handled as a sea, then it might be lined by worldwide maritime legislation, particularly the United Nations Regulation of the Sea.

This binding doc units guidelines on how nations can use the world’s oceans. It covers areas such because the administration of pure assets, territorial rights, and the setting. And it isn’t restricted to littoral states, which means others can search entry to its assets.

However whether it is outlined as a lake, then it must be divided between all 5 nations – and a system about who will get what isn’t the best of equations to unravel.

For example, some nations, equivalent to Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, established an early declare over giant areas of the Caspian and stood to lose out below a brand new cut up.

Sunday’s settlement goes some strategy to settling this dispute.

The signed conference provides the physique of water a “particular authorized standing” which suggests it isn’t outlined as a sea or a lake, Russia’s Deputy Overseas Minister says.

The floor water can be handled like a sea – which means freedom of entry to all past territorial waters – however the seabed which is wealthy in pure assets can be divided up.

Boundaries have but to be negotiated.

So the premise of the disagreement stems from who will get entry to what. That is necessary as a result of…

2. It’s wealthy in oil and fuel

The Caspian Sea is highly-prized for its huge oil and fuel reserves.

It is estimated there are 50 billion barrels of oil and almost 300 trillion cubic toes (eight.four trillion cubic metres) of pure fuel beneath its seabed.

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AFP

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Soviet oil rigs are seen on the shores of the Caspian sea in Azerbaijan

That’s the reason disagreements over learn how to divide a few of its large oil and fuel fields have been quite a few – and acrimonious. Now and again, warships have been deployed to scare off contractors employed by rival nations.

The disagreement over its authorized standing has additionally prevented a pure fuel pipeline being constructed throughout the Caspian.

However there’s a chance this could possibly be explored additional following Sunday’s deal.

Worldwide oil firms that rushed to the realm within the 1990s have now pulled out.

three. It gives the world’s caviar

The Caspian Sea has a variety of totally different species of sturgeon, the fish that yields the extremely prized delicacy caviar.

Between 80-90% of the world’s caviar is sourced from the Caspian, however the numbers have been falling over the previous few many years.

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The Caspian Sea is well-known for its inhabitants of sturgeon

In 2002, a survey discovered that the fish was quickly disappearing and will quickly turn into extinct.

It additionally discovered an abnormally giant proportion of younger sturgeon compared to extra mature fish which produce the eggs used to make caviar.

In response, numerous bans on sturgeon fishing within the Caspian Sea and on the caviar commerce extra typically have been launched.

Considerably, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev mentioned on Sunday that the current settlement allowed the setting of nationwide quotas for fishing.

four. Air pollution is a significant downside

The Caspian Sea has lengthy suffered air pollution from oil extraction and different industries.

Oil air pollution has affected the migration routes of sturgeon, in keeping with the UN’s Caucasus Setting Outlook.

It says sturgeon swim by way of extremely polluted water close to Azerbaijan’s Absheron Peninsula – and that’s believed to restrict their meals and oxygen.

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Getty Photos

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Oil glistens on the floor of the Caspian Sea

A newer concern is bacterial air pollution attributable to sewage from Iran, which is including to the threats dealing with sturgeon fish.

The Caspian Sea’s disputed authorized standing was additionally a danger issue for the setting – as no enforcement would have been doable to cope with a significant oil spill or different air pollution incident in disputed waters.

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