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BISHKEK (TCA) — The five Caspian Sea littoral states — Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan — have agreed on the draft Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea, which will be signed at the Fifth Caspian Summit to be held in Kazakhstan in the first half of next year, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in a statement following the Meeting of the Caspian Littoral States' Foreign Ministers in Moscow on December 5.

“We have agreed to continue to vigorously promote the implementation of new promising joint projects, especially in the transport sector with its various aspects – from infrastructure development and commercial navigation to improving navigation safety – and the deepening of economic cooperation between the Caspian Five,” Lavrov said.

He also said that the foreign ministers “have positively evaluated the interaction between our defence ministries in the Caspian Sea,” adding that this year, almost all coastal states exchanged friendly visits by their Navy ships.

Meanwhile, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov said that there is "a need for maximum efforts to reach a consensus" on all remaining issues before the summit, RFE/RL reported.

The foreign ministers did not say what the remaining sticking points were.

The Caspian Sea is the largest inland body of water in the world, with huge hydrocarbon resources.

Its legal regime has been under discussion since 1991, when Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan gained independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

If the Caspian is legally declared a sea, all five littoral countries would map out their territorial waters and exploit the resources as they see fit.

If it is designated as a lake, all the resources of the Caspian, and profits from those resources, would be split equally among the five countries.

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