Chicago Journal of International Law

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This Comment examines the division of oil and natural gas reserves in the Caspian Sea through the legal prism supplied by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses. So far, the academic literature concerned with equitable apportionment of the Caspian's hydrocarbon resources has attempted to tackle this issue through two generally accepted legal regimes. The first, commonly identified as the Law of the Sea, classifies the Caspian as a “sea” and divides the resources therein according to a strict, treaty-based framework, which produces an outcome disadvantageous to some of the littoral states. The second regime, customary international law, which identifies the Caspian as a “lake,” relies on an antiquated water-law principle and depends too much on the bilateral and unilateral initiatives of the littoral states as a means of resolving disputes. As this Comment demonstrates, both regimes have been ineffective in producing workable results or curbing the self-interested behavior of the littoral states. As such, instead of employing the two aforementioned legal regimes, this Comment explores the Caspian question using a novel legal framework that provides for a clear dispute-resolution mechanism and strikes a middle ground as to the individual states' ownership rights in the Caspian Sea.

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