Russia calls for solution of Caspian sea status

Feb 26, 2002 01:00 AM

Russia called for a prompt settlement of the dispute about ownership of the Caspian Sea, arguing that continuing uncertainty would not only hamper oil exploitation but also heighten the region's instability. Russia's Caspian envoy Viktor Kalyuzhny told a conference of experts from the five countries bordering the sea that Moscow continued to support the "common water" principle as a basis for any legal settlement.

The "Caspian Five" -- Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan -- have so far been unable to agree on how to share the sea's oil and gas reserves, which are believed to be possibly the world's third largest. "Russia is determined to search for a compromise in solving these problems, and in particular we propose agreement to a new principle of dividing the seabed, but sharing the water," Kalyuzhny was quoted as saying. "Unless the legal status of the Caspian is resolved, the peace and stability of the region cannot be guaranteed," he added.
The dispute boils down to thefact that Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Russia want the Caspian split into national sectors, corresponding roughly to the length of each country's shoreline. Iran and Turkmenistan want the Caspian Sea bed split equally five ways -- giving both those countries bigger shares and handing them control of prospective oil fields that Azerbaijan insists belong to it.

US State Department envoy Stephen Mann sought to dispel Russian fears of the new US presence in Central Asia following the Afghan war by telling the conference that Washington would not compete with Moscow for oil and gas. "Our overall task is to assist the economic development of all the states, which appeared in the region after the fall of the Soviet Union," Mann was quoted as saying.
Kalyuzhny called for a consensus to be achieved among all five states, adding that the basis for a legal settlement existed in a series of agreements concluded in 1921 between the Soviet Union and Iran. The Caspian is believed to cover fields containing 200 bn barrels of crude oil and 600,000 bn cm of gas.

Source: AFP
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