Odds on Trans Caspian pipeline shorten as littoral states settle their differences

After nearly 30 years of haggling over the legal status of the Caspian Sea, its five littoral states – Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Russia – appear  to be close to settling  their differences and agreeing on the  delineation of  their maritime borders. While Iran alone still has territorial issues over the latest terms,  it seems that the odds have shortened on the construction of the  Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline (TCP), that could  could pave the way for the export of some of Turkmenistan’s vast natural gas reserves to Europe.
“We have found solutions to all the remaining open, key issues related to the preparation of the draft Convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said after a meeting with his Caspian counterparts in Moscow earlier this month. “The text of the document is, in fact, ready.” 
The compromise that has broken the stalemate is believed to be Turkmenistan’s willingness to drop its claim to a share of Azerbaijan’s Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli oil field which has opened the door for talks over the provenance of other disputed hydrocarbon reserves such as the  Kapaz/Sardar field. The agreement also appears to remove Russia and Iran’s power  to block the development of a pipeline to transit Turkmen gas across the Caspian to Azerbaijan and possibly on to Europe. According to Azerbaijan’s  Deputy Foreign Minister Khalaf Khalafov, the deal stipulates that pipeline projects only need to be approved by the countries whose waters the pipeline would run through.
Iranian objections to the pipeline from Turkmenbasy to the Sangachal terminal south of the Azeri capital Baku are partly historic and partly a bargaining position; until the collapse of the Soviet Union, the sovereignty of the Caspian was shared between Moscow and Tehran, and was classified as an inland lake, meaning that its waters – and by extension the oil and energy reserves beneath its bed – were, by UN convention divided equally between the two countries. But since their emergence as independent states  Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan have been arguing that the Caspian is, in fact  a sea and proportion of ownership should therefore be  be dictated by the length of each country’s coastline. With the shortest coastline of the five this does not suit Iran.
“The point is that our share of the Caspian Sea is not [like] a watermelon or melon that must be divided equally [between] five children,” Iran’s former Deputy Foreign Minister for Asia-Pacific Affairs Ebrahim Rahimpour said earlier this week.

Source: eurasianet