Caspian Sea Region Legal Issues –part two:

Published October 18th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Turkmenistan's position has also evolved over time. It initially supported Russia's proposal for a 45-mile nautical zone at a November 1996 meeting in Ashgabat of the foreign ministers from the five littoral states.  


At that meeting, Turkmenistan signed a protocol with Iran and Russia to develop a joint-stock company to develop the energy resources in the national zones of the three countries.  


However, Turkmenistan has changed its position since then. In February 1997, the presidents of Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan signed a statement calling for a division of the Caspian Sea based upon Soviet-era divisions until the littoral states agreed upon a new status for the Caspian.  


Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan issued a statement in February 1998 that said that both countries agreed that the Caspian Sea between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan would be divided along a median line, but disagreements over where to draw that line caused a dispute over a field called Kyapaz by Azerbaijan and Serdar by Turkmenistan.  


Azerbaijan reached a preliminary agreement to develop this field in July, and Turkmenistan laid claim to it by including it as part of its Block 30 licensing in September. Although negotiations are continuing, no resolution of the issue has been made. 


Iran and Turkmenistan issued a joint communique in July 1998 stating the importance of a consensus among the littoral states, and President Niyazov stated that Turkmenistan shares Iran's view that the Caspian should be divided equally and that negotiations should be multilateral.  


Turkmenistan opposed the Kazakhstan-Russia agreement because it was not reached through multilateral agreement between all of the littoral states. However, in October 1998, President Niyzaov offered to agree to a division of the Caspian into national sectors, and its current position is that the Caspian Sea should be divided along median lines into national sectors that are not equal in size. 


The United States: has supported the principle that the resolution of the legal status of the Caspian Sea must be decided by the five littoral states.  


Iranian Issues:  

President Clinton signed Executive Orders in 1995 that prohibit U.S. companies and their foreign subsidiaries from conducting business with Iran and Libya. In August 1996, President Clinton signed the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) of 1996.  


ILSA imposed sanctions on non-U.S. companies investing more than $40 million annually in the Iranian and Libyan oil and gas sectors. The maximum investment allowable dropped to $20 million one year after enactment for countries not undertaking measures to inhibit Iran's actions in supporting international terrorism and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.  


ILSA requires that sanctions be imposed for a minimum of two years. These prohibitions in ILSA, as well as other Executive Orders, would likely apply to any joint-use arrangements in the Caspian Sea, including the Iranian sector of the Caspian Sea. 


The U.S. State Department decided in July 1997 that proposed exports of natural gas from Turkmenistan to Turkey via Iran did not technically violate U.S. law. In addition, the State Department has opposed large-scale oil swaps with Iran by U.S. companies. 

June 2000 

Source:United States Energy Information Administration. 

© 2000 Mena Report (

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