The Kremlin says that, after more than two decades of negotiations, leaders of the five Caspian Sea countries will sign a convention on the resource-rich sea’s legal status at a summit in the Kazakh port city of Aqtau on August 12.
The signing will will be the “central event” of the summit attended by the presidents of littoral nations Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan, a statement on the Kremlin website on August 10 said.
Debates on whether the Caspian is a sea or a lake have been ongoing since the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991, leaving five nations with shorelines on the inland sea instead of two — the Soviet Union and Iran.
The countries have been working on an agreement to resolve the issue since 1996, the Kremlin statement said.
At stake are resources including trillions of dollars’ worth of hydrocarbons in the seabed, which holds about 50 billion barrels of oil and nearly 9 trillion cubic meters of natural gas in proven or probable reserves.
A draft of the agreement, posted briefly on Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s website in June and obtained by RFE/RL, suggested that the countries would agree in Aqtau that the Caspian is a sea.
If so, the five countries would draw lines extending from their shores to the midway point with littoral neighbors, while classifying it as a lake would mean the resources would be divided equally among those five countries.
The draft agreement also forbids the presence on the Caspian of any military forces except those of the five littoral states.