TEHRAN Dec 31 Iran said on Monday it would not
back down from its demand for a share of around 20 percent of
the Caspian Sea, which boasts huge hydrocarbon reserves and
valuable caviar stocks.
The leaders of the five Caspian Sea states, including
Russia, pledged at a summit in Tehran in October to overcome
differences on dividing the sea and its resources but failed to
agree on boundaries or a final share.
Iran wants all resources shared equally among the five
states, even though its coast accounts for less than 14 percent.
"Based on this principle (principle of fairness) ... our
share would be 20 percent," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman
Mohammad Ali Hosseini told a news conference.
"In order to reach this share, we have always made an effort
and we are not going to retreat from our share," he said.
The other littoral states are Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and
At stake are estimated oil reserves of as much as 49 billion
barrels -- equal to about half that of an OPEC member such as
Kuwait -- and reservoirs with 230 trillion cubic feet of gas.
The Caspian is also the world's main source of caviar.
The October summit did not agree on a new pact to replace
agreements on the sea's status dating from the era of the Soviet
Union. It said setting up a legal regime for it was "the most
important duty" but did not give a timetable for achieving this.
Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan in particular have been quick to
extract hydrocarbons, even without a final deal. They have
signed bilateral accords with Russia. Iran opposes such deals.
Without a comprehensive pact on sharing resources or clear
demarcation of boundaries, tensions can grow. Ownership of
several big oilfields is hotly contested.
Russia has argued for dividing the seabed between the five
states but keeping the waters in common use. Some experts say
this is so it has more room to manoeuvre its Caspian navy of
around 100 ships, far larger than any other coastal state.
(Reporting by Hossein Jaseb, writing by Fredrik Dahl; Editing
by Peter Blackburn)