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Top Russian Officials Visit Central Asia, China --> Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (file photo) 20 October 2005 -- Two senior Russian officials are today opening visits to Central Asia and China.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was due to arrive in Ashgabat for talks with Turkmenistan's leaders, including President Saparmurat Niyazov.

Russian officials said Lavrov was expected to discuss the situation in the Caspian region, in particular moves toward settling the legal status of the Caspian Sea.

The Caspian littoral states -- Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Iran -- all claim shares to the Caspian's resources, but no final settlement has been agreed.

From Turkmenistan, Lavrov is due to travel on for talks in Uzbekistan on 21 October.

Igor Ivanov, the secretary of Russia's Security Council, has meanwhile arrived in Beijing for talks on strategic security cooperation between Russia and China. Russia, China, and the Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan are partners in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which aims to develop security cooperation.