Turkmenistan: Ready to Resume Border Talks with Azerbaijan

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ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan (AP)

Turkmenistan's Foreign Ministry said Thursday it was ready to hold new consultations with Azerbaijan on the Caspian Sea division, but insisted that the delineation of the two nation's sea border must be based on earlier agreements.

Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov said earlier this week that both nations had disagreements regarding their sea border and called for a new round of talks between top diplomats of the five Caspian Sea nations.

The Turkmen Foreign Ministry said Thursday that Turkmen and Azerbaijani experts reached an agreement in 1991 on delineating their Caspian Sea border, so "there can't be any problems or disputes" between the two ex-Soviet nations. It added, however, that Turkmenistan was ready to discuss the issue on the level of the two nations' presidents or foreign ministers.

Talks on the division of the Caspian between five littoral states - Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iran - remain deadlocked. Iran has insisted that each of the five coastal states get an equal portion of the seabed, while most other countries want the division based on shoreline, which would give Iran a smaller share.

The Caspian, which is believed to hold the world's third-largest oil reserves, has acquired strategic importance as the U.S. and other Western nations seek alternatives to Persian Gulf oil. Multinational oil companies are eager to play a role in developing the sea's energy resources, but the unresolved legal status of the sea has fomented tension and hindered exploration of its reserves.

Copyright (c) 2006 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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