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Turkmenistan: Caspian Presidents Open Summit

Ashgabat, 23 April 2002 (RFE/RL) -- The presidents of the five countries surrounding the Caspian Sea are gathering for a summit today in Turkmenistan's capital Ashgabat. During the two-day meeting, the presidents of Turkmenistan, Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Iran will try to settle the dispute over how to divide the Caspian Sea and its huge -- and potentially lucrative -- oil and gas reserves.

The legal status of the Caspian has been in dispute since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The Iranian government has said it wants the sea divided into five equal parts. But Russia, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan say they want the Caspian split into national sectors corresponding to the length of each country's shoreline. This would leave Iran with a smaller share. Turkmenistan's position has been unclear.

Separately, Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin says Moscow plans to stop restricting oil exports in July. Russia agreed in March to cut its oil exports by 150,000 barrels a day through June. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) asked Russia to reduce oil shipments as part of its effort to boost oil prices.

Kudrin, speaking late yesterday in Washington, said Russia was not targeting a certain level of prices but had merely sought to slow oil price declines through its temporary policy.