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    MOSCOW MEETING OF CASPIAN COUNTRIES' FOREIGN MINISTERS DOES NOT PROMISE TO BE SMOOTH

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    MOSCOW, April 5, 2004 (RIA Novosti) - The foreign ministers of the five Caspian countries are expected to hold a meeting in Moscow on Tuesday to look into prospects of agreeing on the Caspian Sea's legal status and discuss issues on the agenda of an upcoming summit of the littoral states, Kasymzhomart Tokayev, Kazakhstan's Foreign Minister, said at a news conference in Moscow on Monday.

    The minister said the talks were going to be rather difficult. "We do not want to give a dramatic turn to the situation," added Mr Tokayev.

    Mr Tokayev recalled that Kazakhstan had taken a half-way approach to the problem from the beginning. Astana believes some of the provisions of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea may be attributed to the Caspian although with regard to the sea's status. Kazakhstan makes it a point that it does not demand that the Caspian be treated either as a sea or a lake.

    Kazakhstan believes the Caspian's bottom and resources should be divided into economic zones between the littoral states, which will have exclusive rights to prospect and develop natural resources there.

    The republic suggests determining territorial waters and fishing zones to fall under national jurisdictions, while the rest of the Caspian should be open to free navigation and fishing.

    Russia and Azerbaijan share this approach, recalled the minister. Moreover, Moscow has signed separate bilateral agreements with Astana and Baku on the use of the Caspian's energy resources. However, Tehran insists that the sea should be divided into equal sectors between all the five Caspian countries.

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