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Turkmenistan: Debate Continues Over Caspian Sea

By Mirza Michaeli and Zokhra Meredova

Baku, 4 March 1997 (RFE/RL) - Turkmenistan's Deputy Foreign Minister Yolbars Kepbanov says Ashgabat's policy on the Caspian Sea has not changed, despite a new agreement signed last week in Kazakhstan. At a conference in Almaty on the Aral Sea, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan signed a joint communique, which some observers said signaled a change in Turkmenistan's policy and was sure to anger Moscow.

Kepbanov today tells RFE/RL that Turkmenistan wants the status of the Sea decided by all five littoral states. But he said Turkmenistan's current law allows for claims made by each of the states. Ashgabat recently has made claims to some off-shore oil fields claimed by Azerbaijan.

Russia, along with Iran, views the Caspian as a "lake,' meaning states would share equally in resources. Azerbaijan and others have asserted the Caspian is a "sea" and that territorial limits should apply.