Iran Turkmen’stan Hit Caspian Deal

TEHRAN (Reuters)–Iran and Turkmen’stan on Wednesday voiced objection to an agreement between Russia and Kazakhstan dividing the northern sector of the energy-rich Caspian Sea.

In a joint communique–Iran and Turkmen’stan "stressed the irreversible principle of unanimity by the five littoral states on all decisions regarding the legal status of the Caspian Sea," the Iranian news agency IRNA reported.

The statement–issued at the end of a visit by Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov–also said the Caspian Sea should have a single legal status and any division of its resources should "give equal shares to all five states and ensure the fair exploitation of its resources," IRNA reported.

The two countries also said that until new accords on the Caspian Sea were reached old agreemen’s signed by Iran and the Soviet Union were still valid–the agency added. Iran’said on Tuesday it would not recognize the agreement signed on Monday by Russia and Kazakhstan–the first such deal to clarify borders between states surrounding the oil- and gas-rich Caspian Sea. Wednesday’s joint statement also "stressed the importance" of a pipeline to transfer natural gas from Turkmen’stan to the West through Iran–but did not say if any progress had been reached on the project.

The Caspian is bordered by Russia–Kazakhstan–Turkmen’stan–Iran and Azerbaijan. Until 1991–there were only two littoral states – Iran and the Soviet Union. But the collapse of the Soviet Union paved the way for the three new republics to seek a share of the sea’s riches–in particular its big energy resources. YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–Prime Minister Armen Darbinian issued a decree relieving Mikael Markarian of his post as chief of the Customs Department. Markarian will be succeeded by Housik Gevorgian who until recently was chief of the anti-smuggling department of the Interior and National Security Ministry. Markarian was appointed to his position four months ago. However–recently–the standing parliamentary Committee on Finance–Budget and Economic Issues initiated hearings in parliament during which a lot of evidence was presented on infringemen’s of the law committed in Markarian’s department.


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