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Thursday, 9 April, 1998, 21:55 GMT 22:55 UK
Russia and Kazakhstan to divide Caspian
Caspian sea
The oil-rich Caspian sea
A deal which could begin the process of dividing the vast oil wealth under the Caspian Sea has been announced in Moscow.

News of the provisional agreement came from President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan after talks with President Yeltsin.

Caspian meeting
President Yeltsin (right) meets his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev
The Caspian sea bed is believed to be home to some of the largest untapped oil and gas reserves in the world

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union there have been disagreements about how to share the Caspian's energy resources between the five states bordering the sea - Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran and Azerbaijan.

Before the USSR disintegrated, Iran and Moscow had divided the sea; but afterwards, there were three new states to accommodate.

Until recently, Russia favoured joint control of the resources, but the other countries advocated dividing the sea into national sectors of control, allowing more autonomy over exploiting the resources.

Under the deal reached in Moscow, the seabed is to be divided into national sectors along a line extending from Russian and Kazakh shorelines.

The BBC's correspondent says the shift in Moscow's stance is largely a pragmatic one.

According to reports, Azerbaijan has largely ignored the dispute, forging ahead with deals with foreign firms, and Russian oil companies are anxious not to miss out.

Moscow and Kazakhstan hope the agreement will provide the model for a final settlement.

See also:

29 Dec 97 | S/W Asia
Gas pipeline open for business
24 Feb 98 | Monitoring
Yeltsin calls for Caspian summit
09 Feb 98 | Europe
Carving up the Caspian
02 Mar 98 | Europe
Caspian nations support pipeline
25 Mar 98 | Despatches
Azerbijan's oil takes the long road
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