La mer caspienne

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Pipeline worries, political risk, and the Great Game in the Caspian Sea

The Caspian Sea appeared lately as one of the best investment place for oil. This interior sea is the centre of a big international competition for the development of offshore resources and control of way for new resources.
Indeed, this sea has oil resources equal to North Sea resources and gas resources roughly equal to10% of the global gas resources! Until 1991, USSR and Iran owned the main part of these resources. Since the Soviet Union disappeared, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan want a part of the cake but the exploitation of the energy resources has a double issue: the sharing between countries which implicate a new state of the Caspian Sea and the transport of oil from a very enclosed area whichcost a lot of money. Although these oil resources are not the biggest they could be an answer to the growth of global needs in energy for the next decade.
I. Sea or lake? a juridical issue
The position evolution of neighboring countries about Caspian Sea sharing during the last decade show the relative importance of it states. Although, till now, no agreements have been done between the fivecountries –Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan-, its exploitation is already quite advanced. However, oil companies must give a state to the sea. The definition of a clear juridical state of the Caspian is better for developing offshore resources and for deciding of the route of oil and gas: boat or pipeline. Moreover some deposits of oil are situated on contested area like Alovdemanded by Azerbaijan, Iran and Turkmenistan or Chirag and Kiapaz, demanded by Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. Until 1991 the juridical basis was the 1921 treaty which divided equally the Caspian Sea between Iran and USSR. When the USSR blew up and three new countries appeared everything had to be done again. Is the Caspian Sea a lake or a sea?
The juridical state of the Caspian Sea is a big issue.Indeed, if it is a lake all the neighbor countries must agree on the way of exploitation but if it is a lake each of them get an area that it can choose to exploit the way it wants. Besides, if it is a lake, the offshore resources are divided in five equal parts, but if it is a sea, territorial water are no more than 12 miles. Since 1991, the five countries try to get the judgment which is thebest for their own interest at the moment which changes with the discovery of new deposits.
1. The Russian position
Russia has been acting for the lake position for quite a bit, considering that “the Caspian Sea, which is not naturally linked to the world ocean, is a closed sea. Consequently, international sea rules (made for open one) do not apply to this one, exclusive economical areas are notrelevant.”(File from the general assembly of UN, 1994). Moscow was using treaties from before 1991 to defend the principle of a common exploitation of The Caspian Sea. It referred to one of the fundamental Almaty declaration of December 1991 by which: “countries guaranty the international promises of USSR” to use the state inherited from the treaty between USSR and IRAN until a new agreement issigned by the five countries or that cooperation was implemented. Consequently, Russia proposed the creation of an agreement dividing the resources in five equal parts with a common exploitation.
This proposal was followed by Iran which has with Azerbaijan a smaller coast border (Iran1146 km; Azerbaijan 825 km; Kazakhstan 2 320 km; Russia 1 460 km, Turkmenistan 1200 km). Besides, oil resources ofIran seem to be the smaller. However, both of these countries accepted a territorial water of 45 mile when it is normally 12 miles when it is a Sea.
2. Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan
Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan were completely against this proposal. They defended the thesis that closed sea or open sea should have the same rules so, this one should be ruled by UN convention of 1982. They claimed a...
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