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Issues of International Law and Politics in the Caspian in the Context of the Turkrnenistan-Azerbaijan Discussion and Fuel Transport

Yagmur Kochumov

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rned not only by increased investor interest, but also by the very nature of the modern technologies being used.  Today Turkmenistan is the focus of worldwide attention.  It is examining this process and taking an active position based on full consideration of its national interests and the most reasonable approach to the interests of all littoral states.


History seems to be repeating itself.  One need only remember that in 1903 Rockefeller planned to lease and then buy the Baku oil fields.  In 1919 Churchill was concerned that “Allied strategic control of the former Russian empire cannot be reliable if the northern Caucasus and the Caspian area are not under the control of western powers.” [1] During World War II, Germany developed long-term projects for the development of the Caspian’s oil riches.

The business community’s activities in Caspian oil have been overshadowed each time by historical upheavals in the Russian empire and then in the USSR, usually in critical periods in the evolution of international relations.  Even before the disintegration of the USSR, the Caspian’s fuel and energy potential largely depended on the creation of a new Caspian economic region.  Its creation would have ensured a heavy influx of petrodollars and revived the country’s economy.

The current focus on Caspian oil is characterized by a direct interest not only in Baku oil, but also in the fuel and energy potential of the entire region. This is attributable to opportunities to satisfy the growing demand of all countries for energy resources and to future pricing mechanisms on world hydrocarbon markets. The current situation has necessitated the development of an effective model for long-term cooperation and international legal tools to satisfy the interests of all littoral states.  The solution to the problem of the Caspian’s status is largely determined by the economic and geopolitical interests of the states, transnational companies, major industrial/financial groups, organizations, and environmental protection movements,

On July 4, 1997 a Russian-Azerbaijan treaty on joint development in the Caspian was signed.  It involved the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic and the Russian companies Lukoil and Rosneft and provided for the development of the Serdar (Kapaz) field.  It was later declared invalid as a result of Russia’s refusal to participate in it. This happened because the direct interests of Turkmenistan, one of the participants in the negotiating process, were ignored and after Turkmenistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a note of protest on July 5, 1997 and Turktnenistan’s president S. Niazov visited Moscow.

All this indicates how exceptionally important it is to observe the interests of the five Caspian states in deciding the status of the Caspian and in developing its natural resources.  The only acceptable basis for developing a new international legal model for cooperation remains passage of a fundamental law - the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea.  In the future international legal and trade agreements governing all matters of activity in the Caspian Sea will be developed and adapted according to this law.

The current geopolitical situation necessitates a look back at the creation of the legal environment in Caspian.  The legal environment which existed until recently was based on agreements between Persia and Russian, and then Iran and the USSR.  Today this historical tradition has been transformed and the five states of Azerbaijan, Kazakstan, Russia, Turkmenistan, and Iran are trying to develop a legal mechanism guaranteeing their individual an national interests on the basis of international parity.

In December, 1881 the Convention on Delimitation of the Eastern Caspian between Russia and Persia was signed to precisely define the boundaries of their “mutual possessions.” It was signed after Russia’s defeat in 1879 and the capture of the Turkmeni fortress at Geoktepe in January, 1881, As a result of these events, Russia designated Kushka as the southernmost border of the empire.  One of four Orthodox crosses, never set up at its four outermost points to represent territorial possession, still exists.  Ironically, it now designates the territorial limits of a state, the majority of whose population follows another religion.

All previous treaties between Russia and Persia were of historical importance.  Article I of the 1813 Gulistan treaty reads “enmity and disputes between the Russian Empire and the Persian State shall end once and for all..,” However, its enactment did not balance the legal standing of the two countries.  Article 5 stipulated that “except for the Russian State, no other state may have a military flag on the Caspian Sea,” Article 8 of the 1828 Turkmenchay treaty states “,.. regarding naval vessels, since ancient times some naval vessels under the Russian military flag could sail the Caspian Sea, for this reason this prior exclusive right is granted to it and affirmed so that, except for Russia, no other power may have naval ships on the Caspian Sea.”

A tendency toward the equalization of the parties’ positions was seen only in later agreements between the RSFSR and Iran and the USSR and Persia.  The treaty between the RSFSR and Iran of February 26, 1921 provided for the following (article I 1): “On the basis of the fact that the declaration of principles in article 1 of this Treaty invalidates the peace treaty between Persia, Russia, and Turkmenistan of February 10, 1828, article 8 whereof gave Persia the right to have its fleet on the Caspian Sea, both high powers agree that, upon signing this Treaty, they will equally enjoy the right of free navigation on the Caspian Sea under their own flags.”

The existing legal environment calls for regulation of only individual kinds of activities on the Caspian Sea. This is why the situation in the Caspian requires that all aspects of the activities of the governments of this region be considered. The 1927 treaty on exploiting the fishing grounds on the southern shore between the USSR and Persia and the 1940 treaty on trade and navigation between the USSR and Iran clearly define the subject of international legal regulation, while the 1921 treaty does not even have a name.

Moreover, some believe that the Caspian’s status was determined by these treaties. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ special envoy F. N. Kovalev notes that “in its approach to the current legal status of the Caspian Sea, Russia proceeds from well-known Soviet-Iranian treaties of 1921 and 1940.  These documents view the Caspian as a Soviet and Iranian sea. With the appearance of no longer two, but now five sovereign states on the shores of the Caspian, this sea has become just as much Azerbaijani, Kazak, and Turkmeni as it is Russian and Iranian.” [2]

P, D. Barabolya believes that the treaties signed in 1921, 1926, 1927 and 1940 promoted only “the further development of Soviet-Iranian relations and regularization of individual issues of the legal treatment of key areas of the Caspian Sea.” [3] According to S. B. Dyachenko, the only treaty dealing with the legal status of the Caspian Sea is the Treaty on Trade and Navigation between the USSR and Iran of March 25, 1940. [4] V. Shorokhov notes that “Given the disintegration of the USSR and the formation of new independent states on its territory, the use of the Caspian’s resources has become an issue.  Previously it was governed by two treaties - the Russo-Iranian treaty of February 26, 1921 and the Soviet-Iranian treaty of March 25, 1940.” [5] In F. Bogomolov’s opinion, “both tsarist Russia and the Soviet Union incorporated this principle of condominium in their treaties with Iran (at that time our only neighbor on the Caspian.” [6]

All this demonstrates the importance of and need for the rapid development and adoption of a comprehensive international law governing not individual types of activities at sea, not types of resource use, but the status of the Caspian Sea as a whole.


The popular opinion that, because of the disintegration of the USSR, the Caspian has become a sea of not two, but five states, merits special attention. Referring to article 11 of the 1921 Treaty, where Russia and

Iran agreed “to equally enjoy the right of free navigation in the Caspian Sea under their own flags” and the provisions of the 1940 treaty, some authors have noted that “After the disintegration of the USSR, the situation underlying both these treaties changed.  Today there are not two, but five Caspian states: Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan.” [7]

In our opinion, this assertion is valid only for the treaty between the RSFSR and Iran signed on February 26, 1921.  Looking at the 1940 treaty, one must also bear in mind that it was signed not by the RSFSR, but by the USSR.  Therefore this claim should be viewed through the prism of the history of the national  statehood of the former union republics as member states of the federal Union and subjects of international law.

From the, standpoint of national (constitutional) law, the situation in the Caspian Sea region has indisputably undergone radical changes.  It is of fundamental importance that these changes occurred in all five states. They first happened in Iran, which had a monarchy when the 1921 and 1940 treaties were signed.  A unitary form of rule has been preserved there, but well known changes have occurred.

Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan have all ceased to be subjects of the previous federation and have acquired the status of independent states. Each has its own form of government and rule.  The most important change in this case is that they are no longer represented by the USSR, as was historically the case, but have their own international juridical personality.

International juridical personality is a rather familiar institution for the “new” Caspian states. The constitutional and current law of the former USSR contained special requirements on this matter.  Under article 60 of the 1936 USSR Constitution the parliaments of the Turkmen SSR, the RSFSR, the, Azerbaijan SSR and the Kazak SSR had the right to establish their own representations in international organizations.

The USSR law of February 1, 1944 gave all union republics the right to “enter into direct relations with foreign states and sign treaties with them.” [8] Then the federal Constitution was amended so that the USSR had the right to establish a common procedure for relations with foreign states and each member of the federation, i.e., today’s “new”  states had the right to exchange diplomatic and consular representatives.

The USSR Ministry of Foreign Affairs was transformed from a union-wide to a union/republic-wide central government agency.  It retained this legal organizational structure until the disintegration of the USSR. This refinement indicates the delimitation of foreign policy powers toward the further development of the international juridical personalities of Turkmenistan, Russia, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan, The law is also reflected in a major change in structure, the enlargement of the staffs of the ministries of foreign affairs, and legal regulation of their powers.  All this supports the legal definition of the functions of each of the former union republics to support, within their powers, their foreign policy interests both independently and through joint action.

Moreover, the exercise of these powers differed in form and content.  For example, the Republic of Belarus and Ukraine, unlike any Caspian state, were members of the UN. Nevertheless, the history of statehood indicates the fundamental importance of the existence of the international juridical personality of the Caspian states - long before the problem of the Caspian in its modern form arose.

The republics’ foreign policy powers in terms of the right to participate in international organizations were secured in article 80 of the 1977 USSR Constitution, the last Fundamental Law of the state.  Furthermore, the adoption of the constitutions of all the USSR’s Caspian republics on its basis gave those governments the right to directly administer relations with foreign states and international organizations (article 118, par. 6 of the 1978 Constitution of the Kazak SSR, article 125, par. 5 of the 1978 RSFSR Constitution, article 125, par. 5 of the 1978 Constitution of the Azerbaijan SSR, and article 118, par. 5 of the 1978 Constitution of the Turkmen SSR).  These requirements indicate the constitutional development of the international juridical personality of the USSR’s republics under the federation of sovereign states.

The constitutional delimitation of areas of foreign relations activities between the federation center and its subjects is a rather familiar practice.  This practice coincides with recommendations of the UN’s Commission on International Law. According to these recommendations, the decision to recognize their international juridical personality and the scope of their rights is governed by federal law. The countries of the world and international organizations make extensive use of the potential of union states as subjects of international law in the creation of an architecture for cooperation.

We view the fact that Turkmenistan, like other Caspian countries, did not enter into treaties with foreign governments for a long time only as a consequence of the delegation of its powers in this area to the federation center.  The institution of delegation had a direct effect on the definition of the center’s jurisdiction and responsibilities.  As soon as the federal structures were unable to exercise their jurisdiction in foreign policy and to represent the interests of federation members, the issue of their reverse transformation arose.

The Protocol between the Government of the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic and the Government of the Turkish Republic on Economic, Scientific, Technical and Cultural Cooperation signed by S. A. Niazov on November 7, 1990 and the Memorandum of Mutual Understanding on the Establishment and Development of Multilateral Cooperation in Culture, Economics, and Science of November 9, 1991 are direct confirmation of this. The assertion that after the disintegration of the USSR the situation changed and today there are not two, but five Caspian states - Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan — does not quit coincide with the history of their national statehood, their international juridical personality, and the constitutional resolution of this issue.


As regards oil production, article 5 of the Regulation on the USSR Ministry for the Oil Industry, approved by a USSR Council of Ministers resolution of September 23, 1968 stated that “the ministry shall be guided by the laws of the USSR, decrees of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet, resolutions and directives of the Government of the USSR and other regulations, the General Regulation on USSR Ministries, and this Regulation, but did not contain a single requirement on subordination to the law of a union republic.

Analysis of the situation with the oil resources of the former Soviet part of the Caspian requires consideration of specialty adopted government acts on organizing their development. Just one resolution of the Government of the former USSR clearly demonstrates the scale of complicity of all levels of government of the former USSR and the former union republics.

In June, 1974 the USSR Government enacted a special resolution “On Providing the USSR Ministry of the Oil Industry with Equipment for Developing Oil and Gas Production in the Caspian Sea.” The following union-wide ministries were called on to handle the task: shipbuilding industry; oil industry; heavy, power, and transportation machine building; chemical and petroleum machine building; electrical industry; instrument building, automation and control systems; construction, road, and utility machine building; geology; ferrous metallurgy; defense, industry, etc., for a total of two dozen central federal industrial management agencies with hundreds of subordinate enterprises and institutions, and scientific, scientific production, design, planning and other organizations. The significance and number of these agencies directly reflects the participants in the discovery and development of Caspian resources, including the disputed fields.

This resolution gave the USSR Ministry of the Oil Industry, as the central industry management agency with jurisdiction over the entire USSR, the mission of building four jackup drilling rigs to drill 6000-m offshore wells.  It contained no special requirements for using Turkmeni or Azerbaijani oil workers.  Seven of the aforementioned union-wide industry ministries of the USSR, were called on just to operate and support the complex underwater well head equipment of these offshore wells.

The resolution of the government of the former USSR of August 22, 1985 “On Measures to Assign Personnel to Enterprises and Organizations Developing Caspian Oil and Gas Fields,” the resolution of the CPSU Central Committee and USSR Council of Ministers of August 27, 1985 “On Measures to Establish a Caspian Oil and Gas Complex,” the resolution of September 23, 1968 “On Measures to Prevent Pollution of the Caspian Sea,” and others are noteworthy in this  context.

These acts are noteworthy only because it is impossible to justify the assertion that the disputed fields on the Caspian were discovered and developed by Azerbaijan specialists.  On the basis of the centralized legal organizational structure of industry management and the resources to develop Caspian oil and gas, one might state that they were developed by Turkmeni, Azerbaijani, and other Soviet scientists, geologists, oilfield experts and specialists in several other fields.  It is unfair today to arbitrarily and tendentiously give this definition of “soviet.” It would be appropriate to remember that one of the disputed regions was discovered by the Russian Kaverochkin and was rightly renamed in his honor, The names of fields such as Mishrykov, Hojakuliev, Nizarov, Nikolashvili, Amiryap and many others tell who first discovered them,

The opinion of E. I. Aliev, JD, professor of Azerbaijan State University, and M. I. Lazarev, a leading specialist in maritime rights, is relevant in this case.  In an article “Neftyannye Kamni of Azerbaijan: Legal Aspects,” they write, “Neftyannye kamni is a complicated system, both an engineering and a social facility.  It is supervised by the Oil as Gas Producing Administration subordinate to the Kaspmorneft Association of the USSR Ministry for the Oil Producing Industry.  This administration acts according to its bylaws approved on June 17, 1971.  These bylaws state that the Administration is entitled to carry out operations necessary to perform its functions throughout the USSR (article 5).” [9] They later note that manmade islands ate being created near the Caspian coast of Turkmenistan. “Specialists from Azerbaijan, in cooperation with specialists from Turkmenistan, are doing prospecting surveys, identifying and putting into production oil and gas reservoirs, and producing and installing metal structures. Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan are extensively demonstrating their offshore competence in this field,” [10]

Hence, numerous articles in which Azerbaijan asserts its right to certain oil fields because they were seemingly discovered by Azerbaijani geologists and geophysicists state that “Promezhutochnoye” (the Turkmen version is Serdar; the Azerbaijani, Kapaz) was called that because it is on the border of Russia. [11]. As we know, there were never any borders on the Caspian between Russia, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan in the generally accepted definition of the term.  Moreover, even with regard to the presumed sectoring among Russia, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan, it lies at least 300 km offshore between the Turkmeni and Azerbaijani coasts.  Even with sectoring, these borders have absolutely no relation to the territory under Russia’s jurisdiction.

Regarding the discovery of the fields, the history of the Caspian’s secrets is meaningful.  Interesting information on this matter was published in the newspaper Bakinsky rabochy.  The author, L. Polonsky, refers to the Istorichesky zhurnal of 1809 and notes that the scientist Karl Hablitz found curious evidence of Caspian oil: “The water at Zhily Island was surprising - heavy and oily, dark olive, it smelled of oil... The phenomenon cannot be interpreted otherwise except to say that, floating to the sea surface, oil emerges from separate springs at the bottom, and it is extremely likely that some of them extend deep under the sea bottom.” [12]

But the most remarkable thing, as the author notes, was the bold guess of participants on the voyage “that also worthy of physicists’ attention and curiosity was that Balkan oil springs (on the Turkmeni shore) are indeed at the same place as the Baku wells on the opposite shore and there are traces of them some distance offshore.”[13] All this eliminates any doubt about which offshore oil fields’ origin was the subject of discussion even in the early 19th century.

Given the changing problems of the Caspian’s status, jurisdiction over prospective oil fields and investment in oil production, the Kara-Bogaz-Gol Bay is of particular interest.  Among its advantages for investment are, first, the fact that it is under the sovereignty of Turkmenistan.  The next fundamentally important issue is that, as a unique and renewable source of natural resources, it is competitive with the region’s most prospective oil fields.  In other words, unique in its potential and located in a state whose sociopolitical stability during the entire transition period is generally recognized, this “chemical Klondike” will definitely attract adequate investment.

Turning to relations between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, L. Sklarov writes in the article “Black Transformation of the Caspian,” “pointing out the controversy over the Caspian’s status and the principles by which its shelf is divided, a representative of the Azerbaijan Embassy in Moscow stated that his country would develop Kapaz together with Turkmenistan.  Baku cites the fact that during Soviet times this field was under the control of Azerbaijan, which did prospecting there.” [14] We view the desire to develop Kapaz together with Turkmenistan as recognition of Azerbaijan’s flawed position.  The second matter is related to the assertion that this field is under the control of the government of Azerbaijan.

This assertion requires certain clarification and referral to the constitutional and common law of the former USSR and the legally binding regulations based on it.  It explicitly designates the state as the owner of land and its mineral resources.  The law on the USSR continental shelf clearly defines the shelf’s ownership and the concept of “mineral resources.” Article 3 states “The natural wealth of the continental shelf is the state property of the USSR ... The natural wealth of the continental shelf is defined as mineral and other nonliving resources on the surface and in the depths of the sea …” Article 4 defines the procedure for work on the shelf and establishes that “to survey and develop the natural wealth of the continental shelf, the competent authorities of the USSR will issue permits to erect structures and other installations ... These structures and installations, as well as the safety zones around them, are under the jurisdiction of the USSR.” Hence the shelf never belonged to any of the Caspian states, and its wealth could not be developed without the permission of the competent USSR authorities.  It is clear too that the structures and installations were also under the jurisdiction of the USSR.

Then, according to article 2 of the Regulation on Protecting the Continental Shelf, even after receipt of the relevant permission from “competent USSR authorities,” work on the USSR continental shelf was permitted only after its registration by the legally established procedure.  Soviet geologists and oil men were familiar with this mechanism, and one might note that the powers of Azerbaijan, as those of all other Caspian republics of the former Union, were nominal in this area, if any.

All this demonstrates that the Caspian oil fields were not under the administration of Azerbaijan, but rather that oil producing enterprises, institutions and organizations subordinate to the union and located within it were granted the right to develop them in each individual case.  It is important to emphasize that this right was granted exclusively on the basis of a union-wide division of labor and the primary — unlike in all other former Caspian republics — specialization of these organizations in offshore oil production. Its location made Azerbaijan unique in this regard.

The organization working in the Caspian was Kaspmorneftegaz All-Union Industrial Association, subordinate to the USSR Ministry of the Oil and Gas Industry. This association included the Chelekmorneftegaz association, located in Cheleken in the former Turkmen SSR.

The disputed fields were therefore developed equally by Turkmeni and Azerbaijani oil men. And work there was done not by virtue of the fact that the fields were administered by Azerbaijan, but on the basis of development rights granted to entities subordinate to the USSR. Therefore the Azerbaijan government’s assertion of jurisdiction ever the Promezhutochnoye (in Turkmeni, Serdar; in Azeri, Kapaz) field is problematic.

Organizationally oil and gas producing sectors, like railroads and air transport, energy, defense and the defense industry, and several others, were super-centralized.  In terms of capital intensity, their establishment and development were supported by the union budget, funds from taxpayers of all the former republics, and the transfer of enterprises, institutions, and organizations from republic to union subordination.

During the protracted negotiating process Turkmenistan displayed the requisite attention to and respect for the positions of the parties in all variations proposed.  At all stages, the Turkrneni party expressed its fundamental support for each, provided that a basic criterion was met - the resolution of the problem must suit all littoral countries and have their common approval.

The negotiations have dragged on for several years now. As a result, focus on the initial projects has been lost.  Now the clear position of the parties is that national sectors be defined.  Turkmenistan previously stipulated this as one solution to the problem.  As early as 1992 the Government of Turkmenistan sent Azerbaijan a document on territorial delimitation of the Caspian by a median line.  After the aforementioned agreement between Lukoil, Rosneft, and the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic was signed in Moscow on July 4, 1997, Turkmeni President S. A. Niazov restated his position in a letter to Azerbaijan Republic President H. Aliev.

With regard to the current situation in the Caspian, Turkmenistan favors a single definition of the status of the both the sea floor and the sea itself.  We believe that dual jurisdiction of the floor and the sea will lead to additional complications and that a single national jurisdiction will be a more flexible tool for later agreements on shipping, fishing, and other human activities on the Caspian.

Turning to the question of jurisdiction, the president of the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic, N. Aliev, believes that the Turkmeni party’s claim to the Azeri field “contains several aspects positive from Azerbaijan’s standpoint.” Ashgabat indirectly supports the position of Azerbaijan, which insist on the principle of “sectoring” the sea among the littoral states.  One might agree with this assertion, provided that it applies not only to Turkmenistan.  If one proceeds from the fact that after Turkmenistan’s note of protest against the total disregard for its legal rights to the Kaverochkin and the 26 Bakinskiye Komissary fields, which the Azerbaijani party renamed Chirag and Azeri (later there was also a note from Iran), the other littoral states understood that this was a subject for discussion by two states on opposite coasts and that Turkmenistan is not the only state supporting sectoring.  Even then one might have assumed that Russia, whose oil companies signed the aforementioned July 4, 1997 agreement with the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic in the presence of the country’s top leaders, would make an attempt to alter its previous, fundamentally different positions.  The current period, during which the Treaty between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Kazakstan delimiting the bottom of the northern portion of the Caspian Sea was signed on July 6, 1998 in Moscow, confirms Russia’s consistency.

Even if the Caspian is a joint-use sea, Turkrnenistan’s protest note and the fact that it alone has a claim against Azerbaijan are additional evidence that the other states agree that this dispute does not affect them and its subject does not fall under their jurisdiction.  In other words, the disputed fields are not in their so-called national sectors.

The opinion of Prof. A. L. Kolodkin, president of the Russian International Law Association and member of the Standing International Court, is therefore relevant.  He believes that the essence of the “legal status of the Caspian Sea lies in the fact that it is not, either in whole or in part, within the territory of any Caspian state and, consequently, is not under the sovereignty of the latter and is open to the use of all these states.  In other words, the Caspian is an object of joint use by the Caspian states.”

In his opinion, “according to its current status, the activities of all Caspian states pertaining to the use of its area and resources must be governed exclusively by the appropriate treaty (agreement, convention) among them.” [15] According to article 5 of the Treaty on Establishing the Commonwealth of Independent States and the preamble of the Almaty Declaration, the signatories recognized the principle of respect for the territorial integrity and inviolability of the borders existing within the Commonwealth.  According to this requirement, the legally established administrative territorial division among the union republics acquired the status of international borders. Recognition was achieved on the basis of treaty and law, and now the land borders between the newly independent states are being delimited and demarcated.

Another consideration lies in the determination of the boundaries and consequently the jurisdiction, of the states on the Caspian Sea.  The sectoring to which they now refer had no place whatsoever in the theory and practice of the administrative territorial division or in determining the jurisdiction of the former union republics.  Therefore, legally speaking, its existence is absolutely irrelevant. Of course, the current geopolitical situation does not prevent it from being considered and used, if only as working material in the current determination of the jurisdiction of the independent states on the Caspian.

The fundamental key question is by whom and for what purposes was it done.  It is clear that “division” by an internal regulation of a ministry whose jurisdiction was limited to a specific sector of government control cannot be the basis for setting a precedent for new border recognition, since this was recognized by the CIS countries in relation to the administrative division of adjacent territories.

In this regard, the statement by President H. Aliev of Azerbaijan that the sea “was divided into sectors, each of which belongs to a particular Caspian country” and that Azerbaijan adheres “to a firm position: everything should remain as it is, and there are serious grounds for this” is noteworthy [16].  One must understand that these grounds consist of the acts of the aforementioned sector ministries. It is important to note that their legal force, which is limited to the sector under their jurisdiction, differed from that of the regulations of agencies with functional jurisdiction such as the USSR State Planning Committee, the USSR State Pricing Committee, the USSR State Logistics Committee, and certain others. Their legal status allowed them to enact legal acts binding throughout the former USSR.

We must also answer the question whether the boundaries of the offshore sectors and adjacent sectors of the continental shelf controlled by the former basin administrations — Uralkasprybvod, Sevkasprybvod, Zapkasprybvod, Yuzhkasprybvod, and Vostkasprybvod — as approved by the Main Fisheries Administration on April 2, 1970 coincide with the Ministry of the Oil and Gas Industry’s delimitation and which of them to consider.


There is one more topic which it would be appropriate to raise in the context of this discussion: the trans-national pipeline. These pipelines should be compared with international sea channels, which are one of the most difficult political and diplomatic challenges of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Modern maritime law and the system of principles associated with it are based on centuries of experience in the history of its development. Today it ensures free ocean shipping, including for landlocked states.

Their international legal recognition results from the international community’s economic and political interest in the development of mutual relations.  As one of the oldest forms of human activity, navigation acquired a complex form of regulation under international law with the adoption of the 1982 UN Convention on Maritime Law.

At the 3rd UN Conference on Maritime Law (otherwise known as the “conference of the century”) “international channels were one of the central issues ... The treatment of channels used for international shipping was developed through an exceptional struggle among Conference participants, whose political and legal positions indicated different understandings of the content of the future treatment.” [17] States whose geographic position is associated with key water routes at entry to and exit from the ocean tried to preserve their leverage over states using international channels for transport and other purposes. [18] This was typical for various countries with regard to chumels such as the Korf la Mashi, Pas de Calais, Gibralter, Zund, Bab el Mandeb, Singapore, Molucca, Magellan, Bosphorus, Dardanelles, etc.  The Convention confirmed the importance of and need for preservation of free shipping through channels and sea passages in archipelago waters.  Accepted previously as international practice, it took on legal force as one of the most important principles of international law.

Recognition of the principle of free shipping and peaceful passage through international channels as a right under international law is a result not only of the states’ interest in controlling states on these channels who demanded power over them.  It is important to note that the definition of international law on channels was a global problem for modem foreign policy, international relations, trade, and shipping.  The form and method by which it was solved were the 3rd UN Conference and the UN Convention on Maritime Law of 1982.

The current problems of transporting energy resources to world markets are relevant. Huge energy resources are located far from potential consumers. They are usually in the possession of landlocked states and the choice of delivery routes and routes for transcontinental pipelines has become a critical problem of the modem age.  However, like attempts to use international sea channels for their own interests, the attempt to gain political and economic levers during the design of the international pipeline infrastructure and its construction has an increasingly conspicuous effect on the development of that infrastructure.

The Caspian region’s energy resources have become a key integral part of the world’s energy balance.  Turkmenistan’s natural gas reserves alone can satisfy the needs of Europe and Asia, and potential consumers, transit and non-transit countries, are interested in it. For example, Japan is interested in participating in investment projects to transport Turkmeni gas to China, which uses mostly solid fuel for industrial and domestic needs.  Wastes polluting its atmosphere threaten the air of that island state, which worries its population.

The current pipeline transport system runs through several states.  The focus on the energy potential of the Caspian region presumes its further development and a multiplicity of routes to transport oil and gas to world markets.  This once again confirms the global nature of this problem at present.

This circumstance has necessitated the development of an international legal mechanism aimed at securing the interests of energy producers, transit countries, and consumers.  According to the principle of free shipping guaranteeing all states, including landlocked states, that seagoing ships under their flag have the right to travel the open sea and use international sea channels, this mechanism may secure the right of energy resource owners to transport them with regard to the conditions of all interested states.  It is important to level the political pressure of individual states on the choice of transnational pipeline routes and solve other problems related to delivery of energy resources.

Speaking of a national strategy for developing pipeline projects, at the 5th Summit of ECO [unknown acronym] countries (Almaty, May 11, 1998), President Niazov announced a Turkmeni international initiative of global importance on the verge of the millennium.  It involves the development of a multiple-option pipeline infrastructure considered adequate to ensure the needs of Turkmenistan and the region to transport its energy to world markets.  Turkmenistan is firmly convinced that “the construction of systems for transporting oil and gas to across Western Asia, the Far East, and Europe via Iranian and Caspian routes will require unprecedented regional cooperation, help create a tremendous number of jobs, and become a major incentive for rational conflict resolution.  The 21st century will see the development of exceptionally salutary prospects for three-way interaction among producing countries - transit countries - consumer countries.  This formula corresponds to the solution of global problems of partnership, where a new approach based on equal advantage sufficient for all will replace dangerous maneuvering and competition.”

The multiple-option pipeline infrastructure will help increase the volume of and diversity worldwide deliveries of energy resources and facilitate stabilization and guarantee international distribution of energy resources.  In this regard, the President of Turkmenistan said, “We are taking an initiative which, in its preliminary form, has already been discussed with several heads of state, particularly Prime Minister N. Sharif and the General Secretary of the UN, regarding development and adoption of an international convention guaranteeing safe and unobstructed transit of crude energy resources through mains and trans-national pipelines. If it receives your approval, the countries of the ECO could be co-authors of the document.  The problem of international guarantees and regulation of such pipelines in the 21st century must be commensurate to mankind’s efforts at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century to regulate sea channels, since these channels carried necessary cargo flows and goods. International pipelines are just as important to mankind today.” [19]

The opportunity to use pipelines as a tool for accomplishing political goals or a political or economic dictate must be entirely eliminated.  The process of globalization in international economic relations requires the development of an International Convention on the treatment of and the guarantees of the functioning of trans-national pipelines.  Turkmenistan sees this as one of the most important challenges of the 21st century and, according to available information, is ready to act as a cosponsor of the appropriate UN documents.


I.  See also Rosslyskaya gazeta, December 7, 1996.

2.  Mezhdunarodnaya zhizn, No, 4, 1997, p. 33.

3.  Voyenno-morskoy spravochnik [Naval Handbook), Voyenizdat, 1996, pp. 377-384.

4.  Moskovsky zhurnal mezhdunarodnogo prava, 1995, No. 3, p. 70.

5.   Neft i politika Azerbaijana [Oil and Azerbaijan Policy].  Moscow, Center for International Research, MGIMO [unknown acronym] No. 9,1997,

p. 5.

6.  Pravda, May 23,1995.

7.  Shorokhov, V., Neft i politika Azerbaijana [Oil and Azerbaijan Policy].  Moscow, Center for International Research, MBIMO [unknown acronym] No. 9, 1997, p. 5.

8.  Vedomosti Verkhnovnogo Soveta USSR, 1944, No. 8.

9.  Sovelskoye gosudarsivo i pravo, No. 12, 1975, p. 43.

10.  Ibid., p. 44.

11.  Nezavisimaya gazeta, August 21, 1997.

12.  Bakinsky rabochy, May 5, 1990.

13.  lbid,

14,  Eksport, 30, 1997.

15.  Rabochaya tribuna, June 14, 1995.

16.  Izvestiya, April 3, 1998.

17. Movchin, A. P. et al., Mirovoy okean i mezhdunarodnoye pravo [Ocean and International Law], Moscow, Nauka, 1988.

18. See also Molodtsov, S. V., Pravovy rezhim morskikh vod [Legal Treatment of the Sea].  Moscow, 1982, p. 159; Bruce, N, Op. Cit.  Pp.

111-115, 200-251, etc.

19.   Neytralny Turkmenistan, May 12, 1998