International custom and legal regime governing the Caspian Sea (seas) Legal Issues

International custom and legal regime governing the Caspian Sea (seas)

International Institute of Khazar Studies (IIKSS) – It's not a secret that the Caspian Sea is already experiencing the most complicated legal-political situation in the post-Soviet period. In fact, the Soviet dissolution and the emergence of the newly established republics has led to the fact that in addition to the regional political equations, the legal rules governing the Caspian region, and in particular the Caspian Sea, are overshadowed.

In the meantime, we should ask ourselves whether political changes have the ability to overshadow a legal system based on objective facts? On the Caspian Sea had been formed a traditional regime that resulted from an explicit and tacit agreement between parties, which had been based on the common use of the Caspian Sea. Such a claim can be deduced from Chapter 5 of the Treaty of Gulistan, Chapter 8 of the Treaty of Turkmenchay, Chapters 9, 10 and 11 of the 1921 treaty and Article 12 of the 1940 Treaty between the countries of the Caspian Sea. In this regard, it can be acknowledged that the agreement reached between the parties cannot be considered an outdated agreement, unless a new agreement is reached.

On the other hand, current international procedures emphasize that the exploitation of resources of the seabed and subsoil, that is called Continental Shelf, cannot be done based on the view that the use of the "Middle Line" is an international custom (with an emphasis on the case of Germany and Denmark and Netherlands) and also emphasize that any use of the continental shelf is subject to the consent of the claimant parties. This is while the previous agreements have emphasized the regime of the general and common use of the Caspian Sea and have not mentioned the regime of the specific use of the Sea. More precisely, the only limitation in common use is use of warships had imposed on Iran by the Gulistan and Turkmenchay treaties and had abolished according to the 1921 Treaty (in the present treaty, the former behavior of the Russian government has been called tyrannical.)

Therefore, it can be argued that as long as no restriction is defined for legal regime governing the Caspian Sea (including seabed and subsoil), this regime must follow international conventions and general agreements, which include common use. So in this way, any change in the legal regime and the new private use requires subsequent agreements.

Author - Maysam Araee Daronkola - member of the faculty of the University Payame Noor and the director of the International Institute of Khazar Sea Studies (IIKSS), PhD of public international law
Translator: Mohsen Hamidi - expert on Central Asia and Caucasus, translator of Russian language and member of the Scientific Council of the International Institute of Khazar Sea Studies (IIKSS)

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