TEHRAN TRIES TO GAIN BAKU'S SUPPORT ON CASPIAN SEA

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TEHRAN, May 24 (RIA Novosti) - Iran's foreign minister, Kamal Kharrazi, said that the interests of Tehran and Baku needed to be taken into consideration when resolving Caspian Sea problems.

The press service of the Iranian Foreign Ministry said Monday that during a meeting with Khalaf Khalafov, the Azerbaijani deputy foreign minister, who is in Tehran on a working visit, Mr. Kharrazi said that the interests of Iran and Azerbaijan needed to be taken into consideration when resolving Caspian Sea problems. (The purpose of Mr. Khalafov's trip to Iran is certainly the continuation of talks on the sensitive issue of disputed Caspian Sea deposits, a resolution of these issue would allow them to be quickly used by industry.)

Mr. Kharrazi said that he hoped "the sea's legal status problems would be resolved in an acceptable form on the basis of consensus among all the five Caspian states [Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan]."

Since the 1990s, a special group of special representatives of the five Caspian states has been working to develop the new legal status of the unique sea. The group has met in the capitals of the Caspian states. In Tehran's opinion, the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea must include provisions that would exclude outside forces from interfering with the resolution of Caspian problems, give each Caspian state a fair share of the resources, and deal with issues of security, navigation, ecology, and the rational use of the biological resources, especially, the salmon.

All five capitals are very hopeful about a summit of the five Caspian state presidents scheduled to be held in Tehran this year. (The first summit was held in the capital of Turkmenistan, Ashkhabad, in spring 2002 and ended with only a general statement on the existence of substantial differences. Tehran supports a complete division of the Caspian Sea's bottom and water area by the so-called middle modified line (in this case 20% of the Caspian Sea's water surface goes to Iran, which is unacceptable for the other countries). Russia's proposal is to divide the bottom of the sea, but make the surface area a common area. Proceeding from this principle, Russia concluded separate treaties with Kazakhstan and Baku on using the Caspian Sea's mineral resources, which upset Tehran. "Unilateral actions in the Caspian Sea not only will not resolve the existing problems but will confuse and complicate the situation even more," Mr. Kharrazi stated at that time.

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