عنوان مقاله [English]
In this, the concluding episode of the series of our studies into Caspian political geography, I will try to discuss, after briefly assessing the background to what has been known in the past twenty years as ‘the legal regime’ of the Caspian Sea, the latest development in Iran’s perspectives of the shaping of maritime political geography.
In the 1990s, as the world order began to shift, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Caspian Sea’s position in global geopolitics also changed.
In debates over geo-legal delimitation of the Caspian Sea in the wake of the Soviet collapse, Iran articulated a position sometimes identifiable with Russia’s initial approach—that the Caspian Sea should be a condominium or an ‘area of common use’ for the littoral states. In late 1996 Tehran argued that the Soviet-Iranian treaties of 1921 and 1940 should determine the legal status of the Caspian Sea as a condominium. Slow progress in hammering out a legal regime on that basis was almost brought to an end for Iran in mid-1990s as outside influence increased over the Caspian oil resources pertaining to states other than Russia and Iran.
By 1998 Iranian government shifted its position to a complete curve up of the sea in equal shares for the five coastal states. In May and September 2002, Russia signed protocols demarcating its relevant maritime areas of the Caspian Sea with Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, respectively.
Meanwhile, academic delegates from the Caspian littoral states in an international seminar at Mazandaran University on the Caspian Sea - Babolsar, October 19–20, 2003 - issued a declaration, on the initiative of this author which put forward a solution on the basis of a) creation of a strip of offshore zone 25–45 miles from the coastline into the sea to allow an exclusive economic zone for each of the five littoral states, &b) creation of a common use zone in the remaining body of the sea to allow equal rights of use for commercial, navigational and other maritime activities by each of the five .
In the latest development, together with the other four states, Iran signed on September 29, 2014, a declaration whereby it was agreed that: there will be two fixed zones determining the legal status of the sea: a zone of state sovereignty and a zone with exclusive fishing rights. These two zones will be 25 nautical miles: a 15 miles territorial sea for each state from their shoreline, and a 10 mile exclusive fishing zone.