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Iran's Kharrazi discusses Caspian issues with Turkmen president

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi met in Ashkhabad on Tuesday with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov to discuss issues of interest between the two neighbors, including the Caspian Sea, IRNA reported.

The two officials highlighted the identical stances of Iran and Turkmenistan with regard to the Caspian Sea, where the issue of how to divide the land-locked waters is a bone of contention among its littoral states.

Niyazov and Kharrazi stressed the need for further coordination and cooperation between delegations of the two countries in regional forums to sort out issues related to the sea.

They also examined economic cooperation of the two countries, expressing satisfaction with its level, and called for further expansion of their trade ties.

Other topics for discussions were reviewing the transfer of Turkmen energy via Iran and reiterating the implementation of the two countries' agreements in this regard as well as completing a 'friendship dam' according to the schedule.

Accompanying Kharrazi in the lightening visit, was Iran's special representative for the Caspian affairs, Mehdi Safari.

The Iranian foreign minister, who arrived in Ashkhabad earlier in the day, was seen off by his Turkmen counterpart Rashid Meredov on his way back home.

Kharrazi also visited Ashkhabad on January 14, in which he stressed Iran's demand for the 'just distribution' of the Caspian Sea resources.

The sea, traditionally known for its caviar crop, straddles Kazakhstan, Russia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Iran, with Kharrazi hailing it as 'the sea of peace and friendship'.

The five states have tried to keep a lid on their differences since the legal regime of the land-locked waters was catapulted to the core of the dispute in the aftermath of the Soviet collapse.

Tehran has stressed that the legal regime of the Caspian Sea must be specified through a blanket consensus of all the coastal states. A large number of meetings have been held, but the coastal states have so far fallen short of finding a common ground with regard to the legal status of the sea.

The five coastal states of the Caspian Sea have to iron out first a host of fundamental differences and answer key questions, notably whether to consider the Caspian a sea or a lake.

Iran calls for a condominium or common sovereignty on the sea and has made it known that it will reject any unilateral action for energy exploration in the sea before the issue of the legal regime is settled.

Tehran and Ashkhabad also cooperate in the area of oil swap, where Iran takes the Caspian oil for local use and delivers its equal at the Persian Gulf for shipment to the global markets.

Kharrazi said in his earlier visit that 'Iran is ready to transfer the Turkmen oil and that of other Caspian countries to the free waters and boost this transfer to 400,000 barrels per day from the current 120,000 bpd'.

... Payvand News - 2/24/04 ... --

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