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Kazakhstan: Minister Supports Caspian As A Sea

Almaty, 14 November 1996 (RFE/RL) - Kazakhstan's Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Gizatov says his country still supports the legal status of the Caspian as a sea.

Gizatov held a news conference in the Kazakh capital Almaty today to report on Tuesday's summit in Ashgabat which brought together the foreign ministers of Kazakhstan, Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran and Turkmenistan to discuss the status of the Caspian Sea.

Russia has said the Caspian Sea should be defined as a lake, which would mean its vast oil and gas reserves would be shared by bordering states. But Azerbaijan has insisted the body of water be considered a sea, which means each state develops its resources independently.

Gizatov said his government is ready to discuss a Russian proposal put forward at the summit to create a 45 mile zone off shore for each country to develop its resources. But he said that for now, Kazakhstan still supports Azerbaijan's position that the Caspian should be divided into national sectors.

Gizatov also said the Kazakh and Azerbaijani delegations to the summit were not informed about a Russian proposal to create a joint oil company composed of Caspian sea states. He said only Russia, Iran and Turkmenistan had agreed to form the joint company, and Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan refused to join.

Summit participants decided to form a working group to determine the legal status of the Caspian. The first session of the group will take place in Almaty next month.

Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan both have vast oil reserves in their sectors of the Caspian Sea which are being developed through joint ventures with international companies.