ASTANA – The Majilis, the lower house of parliament of Kazakhstan, has approved a bill that ratifies the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea.

“As a direct participant in the negotiation process, I can confidently say that the delegations of the five coastal states have done a lot of hard work on the basic document, taking into account the interests of all parties,” Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov said during a plenary session of the Majilis on December 26. “All parties highly appreciated the merits of Kazakhstan in this document, the personal contribution of the head of our state, the success of the summit, his constructive position throughout the entire negotiation process,” he added.

The parliament of Turkmenistan has also ratified the Convention, which was signed by all of the Caspian littoral nations earlier in 2018, including Russia, Iran, and Azerbaijan after 20 years of on-again-off-again negotiations.

The basic principles of the agreement include the rights and obligations of the parties regarding the use of the Caspian Sea, including its waters, bottom, subsoil, natural resources, and airspace.

The distinction between national zones, jurisdiction and sovereignty, the procedure for exercising sovereign rights to subsoil use, navigation, fishing, conducting marine scientific research, and issues of security cooperation are also spelled out in the document.

Abdrakhmanov stressed that, according to the convention, all issues related to the Caspian Sea are to be resolved on the basis of respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, with a commitment that the threat of using force will never be considered a viable option to resolving disputes.

The Convention also establishes the delineates the boundaries of inland marine and territorial waters, fishing zones, and common bodies of water, where different legal regimes will operate.

“The territorial waters are established with a width of not more than 15 nautical miles, their outer limits have the status of maritime state borders. Territorial waters adjoin 10-mile fishing zones in which each state has exclusive rights to fish for biological resources,” saidAbdrakhmanov. “The fisheries are based on quotas, applying already agreed upon rules and regulations concerning the reproduction of biological resources and their use,” he added.

An important point of the agreement includes an official demarcation of the bottom and the depth of the Caspian Sea after the signatories took into account the generally accepted norms and principles of international law on the basis of separate agreements between the parties concerned.

At the same time, the ecological system of the sea and all its components are now under full protection and the participating countries have agreed that all activities on the sea should not be detrimental to the Caspian’s environment and biological diversity.

The document also envisages the creation of a special mechanism for regular five-sided consultations, including a high-level working group on the Caspian Sea at the deputy foreign minister level.