Russia and Iran seek Caspian cooperation

Oct 01, 2008 02:00 AM

Russia and Iran have expressed their desire to create an economic cooperation organization with the Caspian Sea littoral states.
In their first intergovernmental economic conference, envoys of the five Caspian Sea states -- Iran, Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan -- discussed methods to establish regional cooperation.

Russia's first vice prime minister, Viktor Zubkov, said that such an organization would promote the consolidation of the "Caspian Five".
"The main spheres of the organization's activity would be cooperation in the energy sector, transport, aquatic biological resources sphere, as well as in finances, investments and trade," the Russian official was quoted as saying. He also pitched an idea to establish "a special organization for the financing joint investment projects -- a joint bank".

Iranian Vice President for Executive Affairs Ali Saeed-Lou backed the Russian initiative and voiced Tehran's policy of expanding ties with the Caspian Sea states. He added that Russia's presence in the Iranian oil, gas and aircraft manufacturing markets has paved the way for the expansion of relations between the two states in other sectors.
"Coordination of the Iranian and Russian positions will help address the issues that exist in the region," the Iranian vice president was quoted as saying.

The expansion of Tehran-Moscow relations comes amid simmering tensions between the US and Russia over a number of issues -- the war in Georgia and Washington's plan to set up a missile shield in Europe.
Zubkov said Russia sees Iran as its critical partner in resolving problems in the Middle East and maintaining stability in the Caucasus and the Caspian region. Iran encourages regional countries to resolve outstanding issues themselves rather than allow foreign nations to interfere in their affairs.

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