WHAT is the Caspian? For đôi mươi years Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan, which surround it, have disagreed over whether it is a lake or a sea. Lượt thích many lakes, it does not feed into an ocean, but it is sea-like in its form size and depth. The distinction is not merely semantic, but has economic, military and political implications. Lakes’ surfaces and beds are divided up equally by bordering countries. Seas are governed by the UN’s Law of the Sea. The surface & bed are allotted, nearer to lớn shore, according to lớn the length of relevant coastline. When Iran and the USSR were the only two countries lớn border the Caspian, a series of bilateral treaties identified it as a lake that they divided equally. Iran, which has a short Caspian coast, still prefers this idea. Kazakhstan, which has the longest shore on the Caspian, is among the countries that prefer to điện thoại tư vấn it a sea.

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The Caspian basin & surrounding area are rich in hydrocarbons, which include 48bn barrels of oil and over 8 trillion cubic metres of gas, according khổng lồ the US Energy Information Administration. The surrounding countries already exploit the reserves close lớn their coasts, where jurisdiction is the same regardless of whether the Caspian is a lake or a sea. But many hydrocarbon deposits in the south of the Caspian are disputed by Azerbaijan, Iran & Turkmenistan. In addition, Turkmenistan, with the world’s fourth-largest gas reserves, hopes lớn construct a Trans-Caspian Pipeline khổng lồ export gas lớn Europe. Russia has long opposed the pipeline. It cites environmental concerns, but may be rather more motivated by a desire khổng lồ maintain its market dominance.

On August 12th the leaders of the five Caspian countries met in the Kazakh đô thị of Aqtau khổng lồ determine the water’s status. The resulting Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea was a compromise. Despite its name, it determines that the Caspian is neither lake nor sea. The surface is khổng lồ be treated as a sea, with states granted jurisdiction over 15 nautical miles of water from their coasts and fishing rights over an additional ten miles. But the seabed & its lucrative mineral deposits are not allocated in precise form. This division of the spoils is left khổng lồ countries khổng lồ agree on a bilateral basis. The convention also permits the construction of pipelines, which only require the approval of the countries whose seabed they cross, subject to environmental provisions, & forbids non-Caspian countries from deploying military vessels in the water.

The convention most clearly benefits Russia in the short term. Russia secures the dominance of its Caspian Sea fleet, from which it has launched missiles at targets in Syria. The convention also serves as a show of Russo-Iranian co-operation in the face of American sanctions, & lets Russia reassert its ties lớn Caspian states in the context of rising Chinese influence in the region. The convention’s benefits for the other Caspian states are more ambiguous. Kazakhstan will benefit from a firmer framework for the jurisdiction of its offshore Kashagan oil field, but that is already in operation. The feasibility of trans-Caspian pipelines, taking oil from Kazakhstan & gas from Turkmenistan to lớn Azerbaijan, was reaffirmed, though these were technically already permissible under international law. It is unclear if the other Caspian states are still able to lớn prevent their construction by citing environmental concerns. But a resolution of the disputed area in the southern Caspian remains elusive. The Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, made clear that more agreements are required khổng lồ divide the seabed into territorial zones. The Caspian’s surface may be closer to a sea, but the fate of the subsoil remains a work in progress.

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