Source Pravda.Ru

Caspian countries soon to sign status convention, says Russian envoy

Experts on a quintupartite ad hoc team for the Caspian issue are satisfied with their latest conference in Teheran.

The five littoral countries have every chance to sign a comprehensive convention on the sea status quite soon thanks to ambitious efforts of the environmental, fishing, transport, wildlife and energy subcommittees. A sizable package has been drafted, and 80 to 90% of the texts have been coordinated for today, Victor Kaluzhny, Russia's presidential envoy for the Caspian issue, said to Russian newsmen.

Spokesmen of the five Caspian countries--Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan--sat in session for two days on an agenda which included the sea status, environmental problems, commerce, transport, geological prospecting, fuel drilling, and other priorities.

Russia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan insist on the sea bottom demarcated, in compliance with acting international standards, along the central line with joint use of the water surface, while Iran favours a condominium arrangement. If it proves impracticable, the sea is to be sliced off with 20% of the area to each country. Iran's point is understandable--if the sea is demarcated according to present-day state frontiers, it will make do with a mere 13% of the bottom. The Turkmen stance is fairly close to the Russian, though Ashgabat is demanding sectoral division of the bottom and deep water alike, proceeding from the existing frontiers, with a 20 mile central zone of free navigation.

The Parties were clinging to those stances at the Teheran conference, where they did not sign a single routine paper. The five delegation heads pointed out a necessity for the job to go on at ad hoc team sessions for a convention on the Caspian legal status, which will base on a consensus.

The convention will dominate the agenda as the team meets for its nearest session in Baku, Azeri capital, October. The event will gather Deputy Ministers of Foreign Affairs.