Moscow, 13 May 2002 (RFE/RL) -- The presidents of Kazakhstan and Russia signed a protocol today splitting three gas fields in the northern Caspian Sea. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev were both attending a meeting between the presidents of five countries in the Eurasian Economic Community.
Putin called the Caspian protocol an important step in strengthening the relationship between the two countries and said the deal would have a positive effect on energy partners in Europe and North America. Nazarbaev said a five- to 10-year agreement on exporting oil via Russia pipelines will be signed at the end of this month or early in June.
The protocol divides the fields along the sea's floor, giving Russia and Kazakhstan equal shares in the Kurmangazy, Tsentralnoye, and Khvalynskoye fields.
Dividing the oil- and gas-rich Caspian Sea has been problematic for the five littoral states, which also include Azerbaijan, Iran, and Turkmenistan. A Caspian summit in Turkmenistan last month failed to resolve the problem of the sea's legal status.