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Kharrazi reaffirms Iran's rights in Caspian Sea

Tehran, Jan 29, IRNA -- Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi here Wednesday reiterated Iran's claim to 20 percent of the share in Caspian Sea whose division is disputed by the land-locked waters' coastal states.

"If divided, our demand naturally is for 20 percent of the sea and if the seabed is fairly divided, it must follow the principle of condominium which has to envisage a fair share for us in terms of the seabed resources," he told reporters after a Cabinet session.

"We are currently in negotiations which have led to favorable achievements and we hope to reach a final resolution," Kharrazi added.

Iran, Russia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan have failed so far to find a common ground on how to divide the land-locked sea, while reports of bilateral deals among some of the coastal countries have led to disagreements.

The ongoing dispute is mainly over how to carve up the sea's bed before starting any oil or gas prospecting. Iran and Turkmenistan favor an equal 20 percent share for each of the coastal states if they opt to divide the in-land sea. However Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan believe that the sea should be divided according to the size of the coastline of each nation.

The five countries agreed at a summit in Turkmen capital, Ashkhabad in May 2002 to keep up the negotiations to narrow their differences.

The existing agreements on the sea are related to 1921 and 1940 between Iran and the Soviet Union, which do not say how to divide the Caspian seabed.

Press on Wednesday cited Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hamid-Reza Asefi, as saying that Iran had specified its 20-percent share in the sea and 'the related bodies are taking necessary measures' in relation to the country's rights.

"Iran's marine borders are totally distinguished and nobody has the right to cross them," the Persian daily Aftab-e Yazd quoted him as saying.

"We will not surrender our interests in the Caspian Sea," Asefi said as he urged the littoral states to continue their negotiations on the legal regime of the sea.

"In Iran's view, the principle of common sovereignty (condominium) better meets the interests of the Caspian littoral states, but if the countries fail to reach a consensus, I think the final solution is to get the 20-percent share," he added, the daily said.

... Payvand News - 1/30/03 ... --

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