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Caspian Countries Meet on Dividing Oil Wealth - 2002-04-23


Leaders of the five countries bordering the Caspian Sea are meeting Tuesday in the Turkmen capital, Ashgabat. They are scheduled to discuss how to share the vast oil riches of the Caspian Sea.

Just getting these five countries to the negotiating table together has taken more than ten years and numerous canceled meetings.

Leaders from Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Iran are scheduled to meet Tuesday and Wednesday.

The much-awaited summit centers on the billions of barrels of oil under the Caspian Sea and how to divvy up the oil wealth.

The summit has already been canceled a number of times in the past, most recently in October, because of the clashing positions of the five countries.

During Soviet times, the oil and gas resources were divided between Iran and the Soviet Union. When the Soviet Union fell apart, three new countries bordering the sea were created: Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.

The three new countries want a share of the oil wealth, as well. This has especially worried Iran, which has a large piece of the Caspian Oil pie and could stand to lose millions of dollars.

Disputes over the oil resources have risen in the past. Last summer, an Iranian gunship forced oil exploration ships out of a region of the sea that Iran says it controls. However, the ships believed they were in an area controlled by Azerbaijan.

The Caspian Sea is believed to hold billions of barrels of oil and equally large reserves of natural gas.

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