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Iranian FM stresses 'just distribution' of Caspian resources

Visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi reiterated in Ashkhabad on Wednesday Iran's demand for the 'just distribution' of the Caspian Sea's resources, including its oil reserves, which lie at the heart of dispute among littoral states, IRNA reported.

The sea, traditionally known for its exotic 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.

Kharrazi stressed that the legal regime of the Caspian Sea must be specified through a blanket consensus of all the coastal states. "Caspian resources are attainable on the basis of a just distribution," he told reporters after talks with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov.

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.

Kharrazi said, "Technical and legal negotiations on the Caspian Sea must continue in order to attain the necessary criteria for a just delineation, which is accepted by all the coastal states."

The Iranian foreign minister arrived here Wednesday morning on a one-day visit to discuss bilateral ties and the ways of expanding relations between Tehran and Ashkhabad as well as regional and international issues.

Kharrazi touched on the existing capacities of the two countries for bolstering cooperation and said, "The need for further expansion of ties requires that the two countries keep up regular contacts and discuss various issues of interest."

He pointed to the energy cooperation between Tehran and Ashkhabad, including 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, "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 down from the current 120,000 bpd."

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.

... Payvand News - 1/15/04 ... --

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