Turkey Urges Calm Between Iran Azerbaijan

ANKARA (Reuters–Noyan Tapan)–Turkey has urged Iran and Azerbaijan to calm a row over a disputed territory in the oil-rich Caspian Sea–the Turkish Foreign Ministry said.

An Iranian gunship and a military aircraft last month ordered two Azeri research vessels hired by British oil company BP to retreat from an oil field claimed by both Iran and Azerbaijan as their own.

According to the Hurriyet daily newspaper–the Turkish foreign ministry sent a memorandum to the Iranian ambassador in Ankara Hussein Lavazani–telling the Islamic Republic envoy that Turkey "defends the interests of its brother and neighbor Azerbaijan," reported the Noyan Tapan news agency.

Turkey also reminded Iran of a UN principle–calling for non-use of force in addressing conflicts.

The Azeri ambassador to Turkey welcomed the foreign ministry’s statement adding that it was only natural for "our strategic ally" to support us on this issue.

The newspaper also reported that visiting Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon has expressed interest to expand its ties with the former Soviet States–especially Azerbaijan–with the mediation and help of Turkey.

"Iran can become a nuclear power by 2005–and in the event of an attack on Azerbaijan–Israel is prepared to assist Turkey in aiding Baku," Sharon has reportedly announced.

The newspaper concluded by saying that Iran must not be allowed to do to Azerbaijan–what Saddam did to Kuwait.

Meanwhile–a State Department representative expressed the US’ concern about the row over the Caspian Sea.

The State Department spokesperson said that further escalation of conflict in that region was deemed unacceptable by the US–since based on international agreemen’s–economically beneficial oil explorations was being conducted.

The US is prepared to assist in the process of determining the fate of the Caspian Sea and the definition of its borders.

In conclusion–the State Department spokesperson defended the Azeri government posturing on the matter.

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