One of the greatest achievements of the agreement is the progress of submarine construction.1 The agreement confirms, in Article 14(3), that a pipeline route only requires an agreement between the countries through which the pipeline passes. This is a positive step from the previous status quo, ambiguously eliminating countries that had authorization rights for submarine pipelines, given that Turkmenistan and Iran are not parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Of increased potential importance for Western energy companies, the agreement establishes rules for the construction of large cross-border projects such as a trans-Caspian gas pipeline. This means that there are, at least officially, no political obstacles to this long-debated project and that its implementation depends solely on economic and security factors. The August Caspian summit was the latest step in 22 years of discussions and wrangling over the state of the sea, but it is by no means a comprehensive agreement reached. In particular, possession of the southern part of the seabed (and what it contains) is still pending. Iran with its smallest coasts is still holding its moment. Improving regional relations was a recurring theme in 2018 and several ad hoc agreements were signed last year. The implementation of the agreements reached in Aktau should take place within one or two years. However, the success of the emerging opportunities will depend largely on the political will and willingness of participating countries and foreign companies to overcome the many political, technical and financial challenges and constraints.
Sunday`s agreement helps resolve this dispute. Differences over its legal status have also prevented the construction of a gas pipeline across the Caspian Sea between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan. This would have allowed Turkmen gas to bypass Russia on its way to Europe. In principle, it also allows the construction of submarine gas pipelines under agreements between the countries concerned, instead of needing the agreement of the five states. The waters of the Caspian Sea are divided into three zones: territorial waters, fishing areas and « common maritime space ». Territorial waters extend from the baseline (i.e. from the coast or simplified straight lines along the coast) to 15 nautical miles. They are subject to the sovereignty of the coastal State. The respective fishing zones of the Contracting Parties shall cover a belt of an additional 10 nautical miles next to territorial waters, in which each State has exclusive rights over aquatic living resources.
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