Demonstration of geomorphologic factors in establishment of the legal regime of the Caspian Sea

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Professor, Department of Geography, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran

2 Professor, Department of Political Geography, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran

3 Assistant Professor, Department of International Law, Mazandaran University, Mazandaran, Iran

4 Ph.D. Candidate in Geography, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran


Caspian Sea is the largest water basin enclosed by land within Eurasia continent. This Sea is unique in many reasons including the large deposits of oil and gas, valuable fishery resources with90% of the world’s stock of sturgeon, important transportation routes, connecting the European part of Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia and significant geopolitical situation. Caspian Sea bordered by Russia in north, Iran in south, Azerbaijan in west and Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan in east. The unexampled characteristics of the Caspian Sea leads to having a problematic identity and stopped its prepared legal classification. Setting of the legal regime of the Caspian Sea has begun since the collapse of Soviet Union. However, there has not been any agreement on its legal regime between Caspian Sea coastal countries. This could have roots in the absence of international legal regulations in order to implement a legal regime for these types of seas in the Sea convention of 1982. Having 320 articles, this convention mentions the enclosed seas solely in articles 122 and 123. Based on the maritime law view point, the legal status of the Caspian Sea should also be determined when the coastal states factually recognized which body of law applies to delimitation of the waters and the resources of the subsoil. Besides legal problems, geographical factors play a role in determining legal regime for this sea. These factors are more likely to be geomorphological, hydro-ecological, geo-biological, geo-economical, and geopolitical. Geomorphological factors are considered as the most important one and had a profound role in sea convention in 1982. Many of these articles are affected by geomorphological factors and playing an undeniable role in setting the legal regime of the Caspian Sea.
This article is a descriptive-analytic study based on library research. In this library research, documents and the analysis of their contents such as regulations and rules, maps, satellite pictures, geographical data systems, and census software have been used for this purpose.
Results and Discussion
One of the major problems in determining the Caspian Sea legal regime is the absence of clarified international rules in delimiting of such enclosed seas. The articles in convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982 not only do not clarify the legal regime of the Caspian Sea, but suffers from some inconvenient misunderstandings. This leads to a misjudgment by each coastal countries for their own right. In one hand, to reach an agreement for settling the legal regime, these countries have no choice but to refer to some of the articles of the Sea Convention. On the other hand, geographical factors play an important role in providing the aforementioned articles. Besides, these factors are of crucial importance, whether the convention or any other possible agreement be implemented. As it was mentioned earlier, geographical factors are more likely to be implemented in structure in convention, being the basic factor in delimitation. Besides, if the Convention or any other agreement is performed in the Caspian Sea, these factors will come to be very practical. The reason is that the coastal countries are totally different, enjoying these factors. Geomorphological factors such as the shape of the coast, its length, the shape of gulfs, islands, high tides, the rivers entrance, and natural bays have profound influence in determining the original straight line and extending sea areas of the coastal countries. In addition, sea bed shapes, its steep, ant the type of the sediments are influential in extending diffusing of sea sources. That is why the countries do not reach any agreement in proposing the earlier regime right. Benefiting a vast number of fossil and none-fossil sources specifically in continental shelf, the Caspian Sea is off the greatest importance for the coastal countries, claiming more portions, consequently leading to disputations and controversies in setting the borders. This, in return, could damage the regime right procedure setting. Then, considering the geomorphological factors, each coastal countries limits and delimits could be clarified and a unified strategy could be achieved in order to accelerate the regime right procedure setting of the Caspian Sea for each country’s share.
The most challenging problem in setting the regime rights in the Caspian Sea is the absence of sufficient rules in the sea conventions for delimitating its limits which has roots in its geographical conditions (being an enclosed sea). Proposing the best solution to this issue is more likely to have to do with geographical and specifically geomorphological conditions. According to the convention of 1982, the countries with the most coastal length and least steep and also best morphological factors (estuary, gulf, delta, islands, underwater cliffs, and continental shelf) in determining the legal regime have a better opportunity for extending sea areas. Therefore, Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan, have more sea area, in order. Iran, with the least coastal area, being convex, being more limited, and with the least geomorphological factors have the least chance in extending sea area. That is the reason why Iran does not agree with the convention 1982 and looks for appropriate strategies in order to improve its improper geomorphological features. Therefore, with a proper legal regime, all Caspian Sea coastal countries ought to agree upon a better strategy than the ordinary proposals of the convention in order to facilitate the geomorphological conditions for setting the legal regime. The last but not the least, it is to mention that setting a constant legal regime in the Caspian Sea, with the geomorphological conditions, is based on convention of the year 1982 without implementing the method, is not possible, because it lacks every countries benefits. The results showed that Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan possess optimum geomorphological condition in order, to determine the legal regime. Among all of these countries, Iran is in the worst position that demands adopting optimal policies to optimize existing conditions.


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