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Central Asia: Caspian Sea Summit Inconclusive

Ashgabat, 12 November 1996 (RFE/RL) - There are conflicting reports on what was agreed at a summit in Ashgabat of Caspian Sea states.

The Itar-Tass news agency says Foreign Ministers of Russia, Turkmenistan, Iran, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan today signed a joint statement on setting so-called "national zones," granting each state an exclusive economic zone 45 miles off-shore.

But "Izvestia" says Azerbaijan's oil riches lie beyond the 45-mile zone and that Baku's representative did not sign the agreement.

The joint statement also calls for the Caspian states to work toward concluding a convention on the legal status of the Caspian. Determining the legal status as a lake or a sea has key implications for division of its vast oil and gas reserves. Russia and Iran have pressed the lake definition, which would mean the resources would be shared by all littoral states, while Azerbaijan supports a sea approach, which means each state would develop its offshore reserves independently.