ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan, April 2 (RIA Novosti) - The foreign ministers of all of the countries bordering the Caspian Sea convened a meeting Wednesday in Turkmenistan to discuss mutual problems concerning the world's largest inland sea, local media in the country's capital Ashgabat reported.
Delegations from Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan are to discuss the legal status of the Caspian Sea and negotiate preparations for an upcoming summit of their heads of state, planned to be held this fall in Astrakhan, a city along the Volga River in southern Russia.
During the first day of talks, the officials laid out their countries' positions on several important questions concerning the legal status of and cooperation in the Caspian Sea. The ministers also continued looking for a mutual solution to wording for a convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea.
Officials discussed initiatives by Turkmenistan that were put forward at a 2010 summit. At the time, Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov proposed developing and signing an agreement on the preservation and sustainable use of biological resources in the Caspian.
So far several multi-party agreements have been signed, such as the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian as well as a security cooperation agreement.
Experts find it difficult to predict when the finalized form of the convention could be ready, due to the question of maritime border demarcation, the main roadblock to an agreement.
The Caspian Sea is often referred to as the natural marking point between Europe and Asia. It is extremely rich in natural resources - according to estimates about 18 billion tons of hydrocarbons are contained in its seabed, which is comparable to deposits in the Persian Gulf. The sea's biological resources are also rich; about 80 percent of the world's sturgeon catch comes from the Caspian Sea.
During the Soviet period, the sea was shared between the Soviet Union and Iran, but after the collapse of the USSR, the independent states that emerged - Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan - also claimed ownership over parts of the sea. In recent years, Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan have found a compromise and reached agreements which say the seabed is to be divided into sectors, and the water mass is to be shared.