After 22 years of negotiations, the presidents of the five Caspian littoral states signed a convention on the sea’s legal status at their fifth summit, in the Kazakh city of Aktau, on 12 August.
- agreed that only the littoral countries can have military and navy bases in the region;
- established rules for fishing, environmental protection and navigation; and
- set out clear rules for the construction of major trans-border projects, such as a Trans- Caspian pipeline – which means that the long-discussed project can become a reality.
They also agreed that their next meeting will take place in Turkmenistan, indicating that the Caspian states will continue to develop a five-sided conversation.
A few weeks before the summit, on 19–20 July, Moscow hosted an extraordinary session of the parties to the Framework Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea (aka Tehran Convention). The most important document signed was the Protocol on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context to the Framework Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea.
Once ratified, this will regulate mechanisms and procedures for the assessment of all Caspian trans-border and industrial projects, including pipelines, that could affect the region’s environment. All parties now have rights to construct such projects but there is a transparent procedure for consultations with neighbouring states, even if they are not participating in the project.
Non-participants have the right to receive all information about potential projects and can recommend additional environmental protection measures but cannot block a project. In other words, after the implementation of this protocol, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan can — after consultations with Russia, Iran and Kazakhstan — construct the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline.
This article was taken from our monthly Caspian Focus publication. If you wish to discuss anything within this article, or if you have and questions regarding your business in Kazakhstan then please contact us.