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    Putin calls for shared use of most of Caspian Sea

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    Russian President Vladimir Putin told a Caspian summit in Tehran that the bulk of the Caspian Sea should be left for the common use of its five littoral states.

    TEHRAN, October 16 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Vladimir Putin told a Caspian summit in Tehran that the bulk of the Caspian Sea should be left for the common use of its five littoral states.

    "The Caspian Sea should not be covered by numerous state borders, sectors and exclusive zones," Putin said. "The less territory they occupy and the more water remains in common use, the better."

    The Russian leader said the Caspian states could develop oil and gas resources under the seabed using existing national zones for mineral use, which have already been defined in the northern part of the sea.

    "We believe that in the southern Caspian also, interested parties will be able to find a balanced and mutually acceptable solution. To reach an agreement on delimiting the seabed for mineral use, there is no need to wait for a convention to be drawn up on its legal status, we can act in a five-way format," Putin said.

    The summit's host, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said: "Energy resources should benefit all countries, regardless of the development stage they are at."

    Among priority spheres for cooperation, the Russian leader highlighted comprehensive security and stability in the region, including "security of navigation, the protection of oil and gas production facilities and the joint fight against international terrorism and extremism."

    He pointed to specific initiatives in the sphere, such as a draft stability pact proposed by Kazakhstan, and Iran's initiative to sign an agreement on confidence and stability measures. Putin also mentioned Russia's proposal to set up a joint naval group for strategic cooperation on the Caspian Sea, to be named CasFor.

    Among other things, Russia has proposed building a canal as soon as possible to connect the Caspian Sea to the Black and Azov seas to establish a North-South transport corridor, Putin said.

    The Iranian leader urged for laws to be coordinated on "the presence of military and other ships on the Caspian Sea."

    Speaking on a draft declaration to be adopted at the summit, Putin said: "We acknowledge the need to solve a number of key issues... considering our interests and maintaining sovereignty, and refraining from any use of force."

    Both Putin and Ahmadinejad urged countries to act responsibly to preserve the sea's resources.

    The ongoing summit, attended by the leaders of Iran, Russia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, is expected to yield a political declaration on the long-debated status of the sea, which could act as a guideline until the approval of a convention on the issue.

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