On August 12, 2018, the leaders of Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan signed, in the Kazakh city of Aqtau, the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea, which had been developed by the Caspian littoral states for more than twenty years. With its signing the multilateral cooperation of the regional states is entering a new format, says Andrei Chebotarev, director of the Alternativa Center for Current Research (Kazakhstan).
The adoption of the Convention gives an opportunity to individual states of the region – in particular Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Iran – to solve the issues of disputed deposits. Of course, this will take some time, but the main thing is that the Convention sets specific rules of the game in a number of areas and now everything depends on how cooperation will be developed in the framework of specific agreements.
After the main issue of the agenda was solved, it is possible now to intensify vigorously cooperation in both economy and security. Moreover, the relevant agreement between the countries was in effect for a long time, and at the recent summit new documents were signed: three protocols on combating terrorism, organized crime and interaction between border agencies.
Now there are no serious threats in the Caspian region. But there is a number of longstanding problems: fighting poaching and an unstable geopolitical environment (manifestations of terrorism, extremism in the North Caucasus, Afghanistan, neighboring Turkmenistan, risks of extremists infiltrations to the Central Asia, including Kazakhstan). Therefore, we should take some measures. From now on, the five countries have the opportunity to implement systematically the agreement on security issues and create the appropriate working groups.
The significance of the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea goes beyond the region. The uncertain status of the Caspian Sea prevented the implementation of gas supply projects from Turkmenistan to Europe. Now the Southern Gas Corridor project, which means a network of gas pipelines, is underway. Trans-Adriatic and Trans-Anatolian gas pipelines are already under construction. The construction of the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline, which is now a more feasible prospect, will give a powerful shift to the implementation of this project.
But Turkmenistan itself will not build anything. Azerbaijan is likely to take the position of a transit state, and, naturally, everyone will expect investments from the European stakeholders. it But is hard to say whether the EU is ready for this.