(AFP, Teheran ) Iran and Turkmenistan look set to join forces amid a bitter dispute for control over the Caspian Sea's oil and gas resources, a state newspaper reported Friday.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Morteza Sarmadi and Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov agreed during a meeting in Ashkhabad that the "two countries should prepare a bilateral document, which would determine their joint position on Caspian questions," the Neutralny Turkmenistan newspaper reported.
Both countries agreed that all border states have an equal right to participate in determining the legal status of the Caspian and use of the sea's riches, it said.
Sarmadi and Niyazov also agreed it would be "counterproductive" to participate in an August meeting to discuss the Caspian's status, which was suggested by Moscow's envoy on Caspian issues Viktor Kalyuzhny, Interfax reported.
The Caspian is estimated to contain the world's third-biggest reserves of oil and gas after the Gulf and Siberia. But the division of its waters has not been formally clarified and has prompted bitter rivalry between the littoral states.
Sarmadi's visit follows a tour by Kalyuzhny to the countries that border the Caspian along with Russia -- Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.
Turkmenistan said after Kalyuzhny's visit it would refuse to take part in a decision on the Caspian's status if Iran were excluded and would not tolerate any discrimination against Iran.
Iran's Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi told Kalyuzhny this month that Iran would accept a 20-percent share in the wealth of the Caspian if other countries agreed. Iran has accused its neighbours, particularly Azerbaijan, of being too friendly to the United States and Israel.
Azerbaijan has secured a number of major energy contracts with US and other foreign firms since the breakup of the Soviet Union. Tensions between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan have soured as the two countries lay claim to three Caspian oil fields: the Azeri, Chyrag and Kyapaz.
© Agence France Presse 2000
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )