Caspian Sea Issues

Turkmenistan Table of Contents

An important goal of Turkmenistan's foreign policy is working in international groups to solve a range of issues involving the Caspian Sea. That body of water, which affords Turkmenistan a 500-kilometer coastline with numerous natural resources, including oil and fish, is threatened by extreme levels of pollution, as well as fluctuating water levels. In August 1993, Turkmenistani delegates attended a meeting in Moscow to discuss the status of international claims to jurisdiction over the Caspian Sea and its resources. Treaties between the Soviet Union and Iran dating from 1921 and 1940 gave each country free navigation and fishing rights within ten miles (sixteen kilometers) of the entire Caspian coastline, putting other coastal nations at a disadvantage. A second issue is the cartel formed by Turkmenistan, Kazakstan, Russia, Azerbaijan, and Iran to control sales of Caspian caviar on the world market as a means of preventing individual Caspian Sea states from selling too much to obtain hard currency. Thus far, however, the cartel lacks an enforcement mechanism. Turkmenistan is a member of the Caspian Sea Forum, which includes all the nations bordering the sea. Until 1995 that organization had not taken concrete action to limit pollution by oil extraction and shipping activities of the member countries, however. In late 1994, Turkmenistan joined Kazakstan, Azerbaijan, and Russia in forming the Caspian Border Patrol force for joint border security (see Military Doctrine, this ch.). In 1995 and 1996, friction increased among the Caspian states as Iran and Russia exerted pressure for the sea's resources to be divided equally among the group, a formula that would pervent the other three countries from taking advantage of their proximity to rich offshore oil deposits.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress