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Russia backs the idea of establishing a Caspian economic cooperation organization
Russia backs the idea of establishing a Caspian economic cooperation organization to oversee the littoral states' joint projects in energy, transportation and trade, a Russian first deputy prime minister said on Friday.

"Russia supports this initiative," Viktor Zubkov said, speaking at an economic conference of the Caspian states - Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan - in the Russian city of Astrakhan, where the initiative was put forward.

"Such an organization would promote unity among the five Caspian states and help reach a new level of economic development on the basis of multilateral projects."

Zubkov said the organization, which would also conduct bio research in the landlocked sea, could be similar to the Baltic Sea Forum and the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation.

Earlier reports said the Caspian states would make a final decision on the new organization at a summit in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku in early 2009. The economic conference in Astrakhan is seen as a preparation for the Baku summit.

The oil and gas-rich region has been a source of rivalry between Russia and the West, with both pursuing their pipeline projects. Energy-hungry China has also shown interest in Caspian projects.

"I believe it is equally important to consider creating an organization or a bank to finance joint projects in the future," Zubkov said.


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