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BAKU, April 7. /TASS/. Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan are strategic partners and maintain close interaction on security matters, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an exclusive interview to TASS First Deputy Director-General Mikhail Gusman.
"We have long-standing close and friendly relations, relations of strategic partnership, with Azerbaijan and Iran," Lavrov said. "The bilateral agenda encompasses cooperation in the economy, security, struggle with terrorism, drug trafficking and also interaction in the Caspian and in infrastructure projects."
Lavrov recalled that "in recent contacts by telephone between the Russian and Azerbaijani presidents it was proposed to devise such a trilateral format to see in what way we might discuss the themes of mutual interest together."
"It was decided that the meeting will be held in preparations for a likely summit and the ministers will discuss the issues of security in the region, cooperation in stemming the traffic of terrorist militants, drug trafficking, security in general terms, the struggle against organized crime and cooperation in the Caspian." Lavrov recalled that a group of experts working on a future convention met in Baku on Wednesday.
"Alongside the five-party process of work on the legal document concerning the status of the Caspian we have mutual projects with Azerbaijan and Iran," he said. "In particular, ports may begin to be used more intensively, steps taken to promote tourism and infrastructure projects that have long been discussed in the context of the international transport corridor North-South." Two dozen countries are interested in it. They have already put their signatures to it. For instance, India and Scandinavian countries."
"Russian, Iranian and Azerbaijani railways have been working on the Rasht-Astara line in Iran," Lavrov said. "When finalized, the North-South railway route will take final shape to the benefit of many countries."
Humanitarian and cultural ties and region-to-region contacts constitute another large segment of cooperation between Russia and Iran. Lavrov voiced the hope that the meeting would produce a final communique, to be reported to the national leaderships.
"The presidents will then make a decision. The purpose of the summit has been set," he said.
According to the diplomat, progress in drafting a convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea is obvious.
Lavrov recalled that the prospects for signing a long-awaited comprehensive document on the Caspian "were outlined by the presidents of the five littoral states at the previous summit in Astrakhan eighteen months ago, and the next summit is due in Astana."
"The ultimate aim is to complete the years-long work on the Convention on the Caspian’s legal status by that summit," Lavrov said. "Progress is obvious. Experts are now to settle about half a dozen questions that have remained unsettled for many years."
"There remain two or three key issues. I will not go into detail now. There will be several meetings of experts, and then a meeting of the Caspian Five foreign ministers next summer. We shall see what deadlines may be considered for arranging the summit and signing the Convention," Lavrov said. "The aim is to convene the summit when all problem aspects of that document have been finalized. Let me say once again: two or three problem items remain."