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9th Caspian Sea meeting opens in Almaty, Kazakhstan

The 9th special working session to hammer out a legal regime for the Caspian Sea opened in Kazakhstan on Monday, IRNA reported from Almaty.

During the three-day meeting, deputy foreign ministers from Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Russia and Kazakhstan are to work out a consensus on the issue of a legal regime to govern the Caspian Sea.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and special envoy to the Caspian littoral areas Viktor Kalyuzhny and his Kazakh counterpart, Kairat Abuseitov, said here on Monday that Kazakhstan, Russia and Azerbaijan are ready to delineate their borders in the Caspian Sea and sign tripartite agreements to this effect.

Iran's special envoy for Caspian Sea affairs Mehdi Safari, representing Tehran, reiterated the Iranian position that the Caspian Sea should be equitably divided among the five littoral states which means each country is entitled to exploitation and appropriation of 20 percent of the sea's resources.

Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi had earlier stressed that the Iranian position on the issue of disposition of the sea's resources has not changed.

"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 on the subject," Kharrazi said.

He stressed the importance of achieving a concensus by all five claimants to settle the issue. "A legal regime to determine disposition of the resources of the Caspian Sea should be based on the consensus of the five littoral states," he said.

Leaders of the five littoral states--Iran, Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan--have met to try to resolve the issue but remain divided.

Iran has called for application of the "condominium" concept or common sovereignty over the sea and, prior to any acceptable legal agreement, has made it known that it would oppose any unilateral deals toward exploration of the sea's resources.

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 state-claimants a redrawing of the sea's legal borders has become a necessity.

... Payvand News - 5/13/03 ... --

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