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Russia: Moscow Sends Conflicting Signals On Caspian Sea

Prague, 17 February 1997 (RFE/RL) - Russian official Felix Kovalyov, who leads a Foreign Ministry working group on the Caspian Sea, says all five Caspian states must solve problems mutually.

Kovalyov said the status of the Caspian must be defined first, and only then can claims on specific off-shore oil fields be discussed. Kovalyov cited Turkmenistan in this context.

His comments, made yesterday, differ from those of Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennady Tarasov, who said last week that Moscow supports claims made by Turkmenistan on two fields, which are being now developed by Azerbaijan with the help of an international consortium.

Russia and Iran assert the Caspian is a "lake," and all littoral states must share its resourced equally. Azerbaijan on the other hand argues the Caspian is a "sea," and off-shore territorial limits must be recognized.

Kazakhstan's Foreign Minister Kasymzhomart Tokayev visits Moscow this week, and the Caspian is also on his agenda for talks at the Foreign Ministry.