Caspian Sea or Caspian Lake? 🌊

Official Russian Presidential Press photo

Official Russian Presidential Press photo

Not really a sea

After years of dispute over whether the Caspian Sea should be considered a lake or sea, it may now be classified as a body of water with "special legal status" - another way to say neither. The five nations that surround the body of water are known as the Caspian Five (Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan). They held a summit on Sunday to discuss the designation issue where they also decided to divvy up the seabed, enabling access to oil, gas, and other natural resources.


Lake vs sea - why does it matter?

Despite being called the Caspian Sea, this distinction matters more than you think. If it were treated as a sea, it would be covered under international maritime law, which would regulate access to the body of water but would allow free access to its natural resources. On the other hand, if it were treated as a lake, the five countries must evenly split it.

Those who are pessimistic about the Caspian Five’s agreements emphasize that the years of dispute were centered around dividing up the seabed; consequently, Iran’s hesitation about the current agreement undermines mutual settlement and remains ambiguous. As a result, they caution that the region may not see their economies flourish from the agreement for some time.

Those who are optimistic about Sunday’s summit are hopeful that the Caspian Five’s cooperation may increase mutual vigilance to prevent drug trafficking and terrorism in the region. Articles describe the tentative agreements as productive for trade and transportation and will allow the nations to reap the sea’s natural resources. They acknowledge that border creations are still in the air, but stress that this marks a historic step towards diplomacy.

Iran isn't backing down

Though this decision is incomplete, it symbolically strengthens Iran’s international position. The summit highlighted increased economic cooperation between Iran, Russia and the three other nations. This comes in the midst US sanctions on Iran and Russia. Meanwhile, Iran has been increasing its web of global support (see China and the EU as examples). These new alliances undermine the Trump administration’s attempt at economic intimidation and may further isolate the US.

Jackie's conundrum 



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