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Signature of a historic agreement in sight for the Caspian countries

This is the epilogue of more than 20 years of tough negotiations with oil, gas and caviar issues: the heads of state of Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan must sign a historic agreement on Sunday defining the status of the Caspian Sea.

Meeting in the Kazakh port of Aktau, the five countries bordering the Caspian Sea have agreed on the status of this body of water, in full legal vacuum since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, which encompassed then all of these states except Iran, with which there was an agreement, now obsolete

The new agreement to be signed Sunday, preceded by a meeting of heads of diplomacy five countries Saturday, should not end all disputes about the closed sea, the largest in the world of this type.

Nevertheless, it should help to ease the long-standing tensions in the region, which contains vast hydrocarbon reserves, estimated at nearly 50 billion barrels of oil and nearly 300,000 billion cubic meters of natural gas.

According to the Kremlin, the agreement preserves most of the Caspian Sea as a shared area, but shares the seabed and underwater resources between the five countries.

According to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigori Karassin, the Caspian Sea will enjoy a "special legal status": neither sea nor lake, both of which have their own legislation in international law.

Sunday's summit in Aktau, Kazakhstan is the fifth of its kind since 2002, while more than 50 ministerial and technical meetings have been held since the dissolution of the USSR, which has placed four new countries on the shores of Caspian.

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