Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ibrahim Rahimpour has expressed optimism that the legal status of the Caspian Sea could finally be resolved at the next summit of Caspian littoral states.
Rahimpour said after a meeting of the working group on the Caspian Sea on March 5, "the sides have reached complete agreement" on six provisions of the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea.
Rahimpour said the "preconditions for finally resolving the Caspian status issue in the near future" now exist.
Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Khalaf Khalafov also said an agreement was close.
"We will finalize coordination of outstanding issues pertaining to the status of the Caspian Sea within a short time," Khalafov said
The next summit of the five countries is scheduled to be held in Astana, Kazakhstan this year though the date has still not been set.
Khalafov said, "Hopefully, a convention regarding the legal status of the Caspian Sea will be signed there."
Rahimpour sounded a cautious note however saying the summit in Astana would not be the last meeting of the heads of the Caspian states because "cooperation cannot be reduced only to the adoption of a convention."
He said once the agreement on the Caspian status was signed "a new stage of…cooperation in various fields begins."
The five littoral states -- Iran, Azerbaijan, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan -- have been debating the status of the Caspian for some 20 years trying to agree on whether the Caspian is a sea or a lake.
If it is a sea each country would have its own sector to develop as it wishes and keep all profits from resources produced there. If it is a lake the five countries would have to share the profits from projects equally.
Representatives of Russia, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan so far have not commented on the issue.