Caspian-rim nations agree on territorial waters

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani arrives in Aktau Kazakhstan

But exploitation of the resources has been hampered by disputes over ownership which date back from the breakup of the Soviet Union.

"The Caspian Port city of Kazakhstan will be remembered in the history as historic document of Convention on the status of Caspian Sea was signed here during Caspian Sea Summit", said local media in Aktau.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran enjoys an important role in transit field and through cooperation with Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan in the east of the sea and Azerbaijan and Russian Federation in the west of the sea, we can link Central Asia and the Caucasus to the southern waters of the Persian Gulf and Oman Sea and this means that Caspian Sea can be a transit route for the region and out of the region as well".

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Caspian Sea summit.

The Caspian Sea Legal Regime Convention also puts emphasis on sovereignty and sovereign rights of littoral states while recognizing their right to decide on the sea. The leaders also agreed that the surface of the Caspian Sea would be freely available to everyone for activities like travel and fishing.

Iran, which ended up with the smallest share of the sea under the terms of the convention, is viewed as a potential loser in the deal.

Energy-rich but isolated Turkmenistan is particularly excited and President Gurganguly Berdymukahmedov has called for annual Caspian Sea Day celebrations from Sunday onwards.

As reported by the BBC, this landmark deal that has been more than two decades in the making.

But the body of water is salty because it was once part of a the Paratethys Sea before it became land locked after land drifts and a fall in sea level - however, the difference is more important than just for the sake of names.

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And the lynchpin of the whole negotiations is whether the 370,000sqkm Caspian Sea is a sea or a lake, reports the BBC. The provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982, as well as the principles applied to transboundary lakes, are not applicable to the Caspian Sea.

But if it is defined as a lake, then it would have to be divided between all five countries - and a formula about who gets what is not the easiest of equations to solve.

According to BBC, the new agreement finds a middle ground.

The establishment of USA military bases at the Caspian Sea is "out of question", Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov told Sputnik."Some representatives of Russian media and expert communities do not have a firm grasp of facts on the real situation regarding the transit of U.S. non-military cargo via Kazakhstan ..."

Some littoral states have also disputed the ownership of several oil and gas fields, which delayed their development.

Caviar is yet a third reason.

The Caspian Sea has a number of different species of sturgeon, the fish that yields the highly prized delicacy caviar.

The Caspian basin is seen as an important source of oil for world markets outside the Middle East. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said on Sunday that the recent agreement allowed the setting of national quotas for fishing.

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