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    TURKMEN-AZERI TALKS CONDUCIVE TO CASPIAN ISSUE SOLUTION

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    MOSCOW, JANUARY 30 (RIA NOVOSTI) - Moscow believes that Turkmen-Azeri talks on the division of the Caspian sea bottom, held in Ashkhabad over January 29-30, may be conducive to a successful solution of the matter as a whole. This opinion was expressed Friday by the Russian president's special envoy for Caspian settlement, Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Kalyuzhny.

    "The fact that Turkmenistan has agreed to negotiate with Azerbaijan the Caspian Sea bottom division according to a modified middle line testifies to Ashkhabad's essentially changed position on the issue. It is a positive change, which is conducive to Caspian settlement as a whole," said Viktor Kalyuzhny.

    The Caspian Sea's status and division between five states is being treated today from two angles. Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Russia favor the division of the sea's bottom while leaving the water reservoir for general use. These states would prefer the Caspian sea's division according to a modified line, that is with account of the sides' economic interests.

    For its part, Iran champions either the Caspian Sea's being in general use (both its bottom and the water volume) in accordance with the 1921 and 1940 treaties or suggests dividing both the bottom and the water lake into equal parts, that is 20 percent to each state.

    Until recently Turkmenistan stayed undecided in this issue and therefore, says Viktor Kalyuzhny, the fact that Ashkhabad began considering the delimitation of the bottom between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan speaks of positive shifts in Ashkhabad's approach to the Caspian problem in general.

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