As expected, the countries bordering the Caspian Sea on August 12 signed an agreement on that body of water’s legal status.

We have been reporting on the progress of this agreement for some time.  The five countries signing the agreement are Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan.  While the impacts pf the agreement that have gathered the most attention involve oil and gas exploration and the possible building of a gas pipeline, it also opens the Caspian Sea to international submarine cable development. 

Prior to the agreement, if two countries wanted to install a cable across the sea, all five countries had to agree to it.  This was the legacy of the breakup of the Soviet Union.  Prior to the breakup, only two countries bordered the Caspian – the Soviet Union and Iran.  Following the breakup, three newly independent countries were added to the mix and negotiations have been underway since the 1990s to work out a new legal status for the landlocked sea. 

Since the late 1990s, several submarine cables were proposed across the Caspian.  For many years, Azerbaijan pushed for a trans-Caspian cable as part of the Trans Asia Europe (TAE) project – a terrestrial fiber optic network running from China to Germany.  These plans called for a cable, known as the Trans Caspian Link (TCL), from Azerbaijan to either Kazakhstan or Turkmenistan.  At one point, a second cable plan was added for route diversity, to be called TCL-2.  Nothing ever came of these projects. 

In 2015, there was another proposal to build an Azerbaijan-Kazakhstan cable.  This one was called the Trans-Eurasian Information Super Highway (TASIM).  Again, there was no further development.

The new Caspian agreement specifically includes submarine cable projects.  The only demands on these projects are that all five nations must be informed of the construction of the cables and that they follow prescribed environmental regulations.

It will be interesting to see how quickly new Caspian projects are announced.