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No deal at Caspian Sea conference

A Russian conference on the legal status of the Caspian sea ended with no solution to disputes over the sharing of the waters between Central Asian states and Russia, a Reuters news report said on Thursday.

The meeting, which opened in the capital Moscow on Wednesday, was attended by legal experts and officials from the five states which lay claim to the sea. They are, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran and Russia.

The Caspian Sea is rich in oil reserves and sturgeon which provides some of the best black caviar in the world and the countries are arguing over how the sea's resources should be divided up. During Soviet times the Caspian was divided between the former USSR and Iran.

Following the conference, Moscow said it was optimistic a solution to the disagreements would be found by the end of the year, Azerbaijan and Iran remained at loggerheads and there were no representatives from Turkmenistan present at all during the discussions, the report said.

Russia's main negotiator, Viktor Kalyuzhny was quoted as saying that the representatives from the five states on the Caspian Sea would meet again in April to agree an agenda for a summit which he hoped would take place later this year. Kalyuzhny added that although an agreement had not been reached during this conference, there were some positive signs in that the states were not too "inflexible" in their positions.

Russia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan's decision to legalise development of oil and gas deposits from the Caspian by signing bilateral agreements before a final five-nation deal, has caused problems in the past. Last year Iran dispatched gunboats to chase two ships owned by BP, discovered exploring waters claimed by Iran and Azerbaijan. Tehran wants the sea to be spilt five ways, however, the former Soviet states want the resources divided another way which would only leave Iran with less than 20 percent.

Another concern over the sharing of the Caspian Sea is the environmental impact of the exploitation of its resources. Environmentalists warn of a serious degradation of the black caviar and fish resources in the sea resulting in an ecological disaster.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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