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Putin, Aliyev Ink Accord on Caspian


Russia and Azerbaijan signed a bilateral accord Monday on dividing the Caspian Sea, the second such deal Moscow has tied up with a state bordering the oil-rich waters.

Russia and some other Caspian states began signing bilateral deals on dividing the landlocked sea after the failure of talks in April on a broader agreement between the five littoral states -- Azerbaijan, Iran, Russia, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.

Mondays agreement between President Vladimir Putin and Azeri leader Heidar Aliyev follows a similar deal signed by Russia and Kazakhstan last May after the two powers had agreed to develop three major oil and gas deposits together.

The Caspian Sea, which is believed to hold as much oil as the North Sea, has needed a new legal status since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Until then it had been governed by a 1970 agreement between Iran and the Soviet Union, then the only littoral states.

Iran has said it wants the sea split equally between the five while Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan support a so-called middle lines division principle, which would leave Iran with the smallest part of the Caspian.

Speaking at the Kremlin signing ceremony Monday, Aliyev said the agreement was of great significance since Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Russia had found a common position. "I am certain that this will have an impact on the position of Iran and Turkmenistan," he said.

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