Russia's top official for the Caspian region said Tuesday that the controversy over how to divide the sea's riches among its five coastal states should be decided by the end of the year.
Viktor Kalyuzhny, Russian President Vladimir Putin's special envoy to the region, said that once the question of delineating the Caspian's sectors was solved, the area would become a "world zone."
"The year 2001 should be the last in deciding the Caspian's status, and this should be decided by all," said Kalyuzhny, repeating Russia's insistence that all five Caspian countries agree on the final carve-up.
Kalyuzhny made his comments during a meeting with Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev. Aliyev and Putin earlier this year agreed to divide their two sectors along the principle of a "middle line."
Determining the Caspian's status, experts believe, will accelerate the sea's development and help unlock its substantial hydrocarbon riches, believed to be at least on par with the North Sea.
Baku, however, is unable to reach agreement with nearby Turkmenistan and Iran over the ownership of a number of oil fields located on the dividing line between their sectors.
Tehran is also insisting that all five countries receive an equal 20 percent portion of the sea, which would cut into the sectors Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan have already marked out for themselves.
Kalyuzhny said he would next travel to Ashgabat, and would head to Tehran on April 7-8. A summit of Caspian state leaders is due to take place in Turkmenistan on April 15-16.—AFP.
©--Agence France Presse 2001.
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)