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Iran's stance on Caspian Sea unchanged: Kharrazi

Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi stressed in Baku on Monday that Iran's stance on a legal regime to govern disposition of the resources of the Caspian Sea has not changed, IRNA reported.

"The Islamic Republic's stance on the Caspian Sea issue has not changed and technical negotiations with the Azerbaijan Republic are currently underway to reach a final agreement in this regard," Kharrazi told reporters before leaving here for Tbilisi.

"A legal regime to govern the Caspian Sea should be based on the consensus of the five littoral states," he stressed.

Pointing to an agreement that could possibly come up between Iran and Azerbaijan on the issue, Kharrazi was optimistic such an agreement could be reached during President Mohammad Khatami's upcoming visit to Baku.

The five coastal states of the Caspian Sea--Iran, Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan--remain at odds today over the issue of a legal regime for the Caspian Sea that will equitably apportion the sea's resources.

Iran has called for the "condominium" concept or common sovereignty over the sea, and has made it known that it considers any unilateral deals for energy exploration of the sea before a legal regime is established as null and void.

It also insists the 1921 and 1940 agreements between Moscow and Tehran remain valid until a new legal regime for the sea is drawn up.

Iran and Russia technically used to share the Caspian Sea, but since the collapse of the former Soviet Union and the birth of the three other republics claimants have been added which necessitate a redrawing of the sea's marine borders.

"Iran attaches importance to the restoration of security in the Caucasus region," he said, referring to the Islamic Republic's declared stances on the issues affecting the Caucasus region.

The foreign minister also called for persistent efforts to settle the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, saying this longstanding conflict in the Caucasus has had repercussions on the region's security.

He stressed the need to exhaust all potentials and capacities to settle the conflict which is a major irritant in Armenia-Azerbaijan relations, alluding to the possibility of reaching a solution at the domestic level. He offered Iran's readiness to mediate in the conflict.

Pointing to developments in Iraq after the war, Kharrazi expressed the hope that normalcy would return and the needs of the Iraqi people would be met at the earliest possible time, including establishment of a government of their choice.

"Such issue requires the withdrawal of foreign forces from Iraq as well as leaving the Iraqi issues to the United Nations," he said.

Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, accompanied by a high-ranking delegation, was in the Azerbaijani capital on Monday for talks with Azeri senior officials.

In Baku, the two sides discussed key regional issues, political and economic bilateral cooperation and post-war Iraq.

The foreign minister noted that Iran-Azerbaijan relations received a tremendous boost after Azeri President Haidar Aliyev's visit to Tehran last year, alluding to a number of important economic projects that were signed and are now being implemented.

Referring to President Khatami's upcoming visit to the Azerbaijan Republic, he predicted it would be a turning point in bilateral ties and economic cooperation between the two countries in the fields of trade, energy, transportation and investment.

He noted the deep-rooted, historical commonalities between the two nations and urged the two countries to use their potentials to the fullest to expand relations.

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, accompanied by a delegation, arrived in the Georgian capital Tbilisi today on the second leg of his three-nation Caucasus tour.

In Tbilisi, Kharrazi will hold talks today with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and his counterpart, Irakli Menagharishvili, among others.

Kharrazi, Shevardnadze discuss key issues

Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, who arrived in Tbilisi Tuesday on the second leg of a three-nation tour of the Caucasus, met with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze.

During the meeting, held behind closed doors at the state palace of Georgia, the two sides discussed ways of bolstering bilateral ties, particularly political and economic ties, expansion of regional cooperation, latest developments in Iraq as well as issues of mutual concern.

Kharrazi, who is accompanied by a high-ranking delegation in this tour, is also scheduled to hold talks with the Georgian foreign minister, the secretary of the National Security Council and deputy parliament speaker.

Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi and his entourage have just concluded fruitful talks in Baku with Azerbaijani officials.

From Tbilisi, he will head for Yerevan, the capital of the Republic of Armenia, to discuss issues of mutual interest with the republic's top officials before he departs for home.

... Payvand News - 4/29/03 ... --

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