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    LITTORAL STATES DISCUSS CASPIAN LEGAL STATUS

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    BAKU, March 16, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - A working group for defining legal status for the Caspian Sea gathered in Baku on Tuesday to discuss 11 articles of the Convention on the Caspian's Legal Status, which have not been agreed on so far, Andrei Urnov, Russian ambassador at large, who heads the Russian group for the Caspian, told RIA Novosti on Tuesday. The Baku meeting of the group of deputy foreign ministers of the five Caspian countries, Azerbaijan, Russia, Kazakhstan, Iran and Turkmenistan, will last into March 17.

    The convention consists of 22 articles, half of which have already been agreed on, said Mr. Urnov.

    "The Convention contains conceptual issues, which require political decisions," emphasised the diplomat.

    Mr. Urnov does not agree with an opinion that Iran's and Turkmenistan's positions hamper the resolution of those issues.

    Iran proposed dividing the sea into 20-percent sections between all littoral states. "However, Iran is taking a different position now," said the diplomat.

    As to Turkmenistan, Mr. Urnov said a recent visit to the republic by the Russian president's envoy for the Caspian Viktor Kalyuzhny had helped resolve a series of problems. However, the diplomat did not elaborate which problems were resolved.

    The participants in the Baku meeting will also exchange opinions on a meeting of the Caspian countries' foreign ministers, which is due to take place in Moscow in April, according to Mr. Urnov.

    Mr. Kalyuzhny told reporters yesterday that he expected the meeting to bring positive results.

    The deputy foreign ministers held their previous meeting in Tehran in December 2003.

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