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Azerbaijan/Russia: Officials To Discuss Caspian Oil Exploration and Fishing

Baku, 4 September 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Consultations on Caspian Sea problems, as well as its status, are the purpose of a visit to Baku today by Ambassador-at-Large Fyodor Kovalchuk, head of a special commission of Russia's Foreign Ministry, reports RFE/RL's Turkmenistan Service.

The status of the Caspian was raised by Russia two years ago in connection with oil exploration deals other Caspian states began to develop. Moscow asserts that it should be involved in development of the Caspian, while Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, especially, argue they should have control over resources in what they consider their coastal waters.

Itar-Tass news agency yesterday cited Russian specialists who believe that, until the dispute is resolved, oil deals signed by Caspian states are not valid.

Another expected topic is the upgrading of commercial fishing. The sturgeon population in the Caspian has decreased alarmingly over the last decade.

The Caspian is bordered by Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan.