Leaders of the five nations bordering the Caspian Sea ended a two-day summit in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan Tuesday, but failed to agree how to divide up the sea's vast oil and gas deposits. However, some interest was sparked along the sidelines where Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Mohammed Khatami discussed the fight against terrorism.
President Putin praised Iran for what he said has been its positive role in the overall fight against international terrorism.
In particular, Mr. Putin praised Iran for its support for Afghanistan, and said he hoped for further such cooperation.
Iran has received widespread praise for its constructive role in ushering in Afghanistan's post-Taliban interim government and for offering badly needed reconstruction aid.
Iranian president Khatami said the September 11 attacks against the United States underscored the need to fight terrorism. He called for greater, multilateral cooperation in the campaign. But, also warned against taking, what he described as a "one-sided approach" to terrorism. He described the situation in the Middle East as "catastrophic" and said all countries should make an effort to bring peace to that region.
The Russian and Iranian leaders met on the sidelines of the two-day, five-nation summit in Ashgabad, called to try to resolve differences over dividing up the riches of the Caspian Sea. But, despite intensive discussions, the leaders failed to reach any agreement.
At one point, President Khatami and his delegation left the summit, fueling speculation that he had walked out over differences in opinion. But, Iranian officials later played down the incident, saying the president had a backache and simply decided to not attend the formal dinner Tuesday evening.
The Caspian Sea is believed to hold vast deposits of oil and natural gas. Harvesting those riches was governed by a 1970 treaty between the Soviet Union and Iran. But, since the disintegration of the Soviet Union 10 years ago, who gets what share of the sea's riches has been in limbo. And, the newly independent states in the region,Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan want to make sure they get their share.
Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov hoped the summit would result in some sort of breakthrough and said positions were clearly laid out.
President Niyazov said it was important to spell out positions on the main disputes, which could otherwise lead to conflicts in the area.
Kazahkstan's president Nursultan Nazarbayev acknowledged the problems were larger than the participants had expected.
Russian President Putin put a more positive spin on the situation, saying at least the leaders had met to talk.
He said that for the first time in the history of the dispute, the regional leaders have discussed all the issues in detail and agreed to continue consultations.