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Oil fuels Caspian carve-up

Caspian states keen on oil

Keen to exploit the massive oil deposits found in its segment of the Caspian Sea, Kazakhstan is pushing for an end to the decade-long dispute over how to draw borders between the five countries that share its coastline.

The Soviet Union signed the only existing border agreement with Iran in the 1940s but the treaty didn't mention how sub-sea resources should be shared or divided up. Then almost overnight in 1991 three new countries - Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan - were created on the shores of the Caspian.

When offshore oil was discovered the bickering began. However, following Russian president Vladimir Putin's election in March 2000 and a US resolve to diversify its oil supplies after the terrorist attacks last September, a new climate of cooperation has emerged between the five littoral states.

In April last year the presidents of the five states met in the Turkmen capital of Ashkhabad to try to thrash out a deal.

Most of the oil deposits are thought to be in the north of the sea, in the Azerbaijani, Russian and Kazakh sectors.

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