Caspian Nations Hold Boundary Talks

Discussion are being held in Almaty, Kazakhstan to discuss the status of the Caspian Sea and options for an acceptable agreement for all involved, Kairat Abuseitov said. "It is quite possible to find a basis of the variant acceptable for all sides," the Kazakh First Deputy Foreign Minister said during a break of an expert session on the convention on the Caspian Sea status. The session is being held with deputy foreign ministers. The five Caspian nations "are ready to display flexibility to resolve disputes," he said. Kazakhstan's position on the division of the Caspian Sea is invariable, Abuseitov stressed. "We still think that it would be the best to divide the Caspian Sea into territorial waters, fishing zones and open seas. We also agree to the idea of free navigation throughout the Caspian Sea for vessels under the flags of Caspian nations," he said.

Meanwhile, Khoshgeldy Babayev, chairman of the Turkmen president's state agency for the Caspian Sea, said that Ashgabat favors the soonest possible drafting of a convention on the status of the Caspian Sea. "We cannot sign concrete agreements without defining a common attitude on all aspects of Caspian development," he stressed.

At the briefing, Mahdi Safari, the Iranian representative for the Caspian issue, said that "We hope to achieve good results after this session." He said Iran had changed its position, which was initially based on the condominium principle. "We have reaffirmed our consent for the Caspian Sea division to display our goodwill," Safari stressed. "We have offered other Caspian nations a formula that makes Iran's share 20%," he said. But the division of the Caspian Sea ought to be based on an expert analysis, international law and experience, he noted.

The special working group's session will continue for three days till May 14. The previous session (on the 8th) adopted a draft convention on the status of the Caspian Sea. That session took place in Baku in February 2003.