President Putin hailed the Convention on the Caspian Sea’s Legal Status for its “landmark significance” because it’s the first time that all the relevant states agreed on something of consequence concerning this topic, which importantly included banning the military forces of extra-regional states and creating a Caspian Economic Forum. RT quoted Russian expert Andrey Grozin as saying that “The Iranian position hampered signing the Caspian Sea convention for a long time” and praising the Islamic Republic’s leadership for making the necessary concessions to finally bring this about, but President Rouhani cautioned that not all issues were resolved during the summit and that “negotiations on delimitation of the Caspian Sea should continue among the littoral states”.
His comments were in response to the fact that while surface issues were agreed upon, the seabed ones remain unresolved, and therefore it’s unclear whether the long-discussed “Trans-Caspian Pipeline” between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan has finally received the international legal approval to be built. In any case and looking beyond this important ambiguity, it can be analyzed that the intensification of multilateral pressure along Iran’s western flank in the Mashriq may have contributed to Tehran reconsidering some of its other formerly rigid positions towards the Caspian Sea and subsequently softening them in order to create inroads for an “Eastern Pivot” that could revolutionize Eurasian affairs.
The institutional overlap of the Eurasian Union, Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), and SCO integrational bodies between the Caspian Sea’s five regional states creates a solid basis for advancing the Golden Ring vision of a comprehensive partnership between multipolar Great Powers and the Central Asian Republics using the Caspian Economic Forum as one of its inter-organizational platforms. Relatedly, this new forum also facilitates the linking of the previously disconnected Lapis Lazuli, BTK, and Via Carpathia East-West trade corridors and closer coordination between the five littoral states to develop the North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC) with India. So long as Iran remains cooperative, and it has every self-interested reason to be, then the Caspian Sea could become crucial to multipolarity.