Envoys of Caspian States Seek to Finalise Convention on Caspian Legal Status

Deputy foreign ministers of the Caspian states - Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Iran - convened on Monday in Alma Ata, Kazakhstan, to finalise the text of a convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea.

Kairat Abuseitov, a representative of Kazakhstan, opening the session, said: "We must reach a consensus, because adoption of the convention will make it possible to start developing the sea resources and on its basis to conclude branch-specific agreements, which are indispensable for the economic development of each Caspian state," the deputy foreign minister of Kazakhstan said.

At a news conference diplomats reminded journalists of the main "stumbling block" at the negotiations, which have been conducted for five years now, the principle of division of Caspian resources. Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan have agreed on the principle of a modified middle line to be drawn at the Caspian bottom and drafted a three-way treaty on its basis. Iran and Turkmenistan think differently, however.

An Iranian representative said at the briefing that his country adheres to the condominium principle, when each of the five Caspian countries must get 20 per cent of the water surface and seabed. "There are many techniques for determining the middle line, and the Alma Ata meeting should choose the most effective one," the Iranian diplomat said.

In the view of the special envoy of the Russian president, Viktor Kalyuzhny, "Iran has the right to its own point of view as an equal party to the negotiations, and all partners are obliged to reckon with it." "It is important to find a common point where interests converge," he said.

The session will end on May 14.

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