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Countries involved in the negotiations over the legal status
Countries involved in the negotiations over the legal status of the Caspian Sea are getting closer to reaching a mutual understanding, the Russian foreign minister said on Tuesday.

Deputy foreign ministers of the Caspian littoral states are currently holding a meeting in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, to discuss the legal status of the energy-rich sea.

"I don't want to downgrade the importance of the issues that have yet to be discussed, but my contacts with the foreign ministers of the Caspian littoral states show that the participants in the negotiation process are drawing closer to mutual understanding, in particular on delimitation of the whole Caspian water area and seabed division in the south," Sergei Lavrov said.

The status of the oil- and gas-rich inland sea has been a source of long-running disagreements between the five littoral states - Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan - since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The countries have failed to agree on how to divide the seabed. The Caspian's oil and gas reserves, believed to be the world's third largest, have also been a source of rivalry between Russia, Iran and the West.

The next meeting is expected to be held in the Turkmen capital, Ashgabat, although no date has been set.


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