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Russia/Turkmenistan: Presidents Will Work On Commercial Disputes

Moscow, 7 August 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Russia and Turkmenistan have agreed to speed up efforts to resolve their dispute over rights to oil and gas deposits in the Caspian Sea. This was announced following Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov's talks in Moscow with Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

Much of the conflict over the oil reserves is linked to whether the Caspian should be considered a lake or a sea. Russia and Iran say the Caspian is a lake whose resources should be shared equally. But Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan - the other nations that border the Caspian - say it is an inland sea that should be carved into sectors.

Yeltsin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky told reporters after today's talks that both leaders agreed to try to resolve that disagreement and work for closer commercial ties. He said Yeltsin has accepted an invitation to visit Turkmenistan next March or April.

Both leaders also agreed to form a new joint Russo-Turkmen venture to supply gas to the other members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).