Baku Rejects Turkmen Criticism of Caspian Work

BAKU (Reuters)–Azerbaijan hit back at Caspian neighbor Turkmen’stan on Thursday–rejecting a warning that its oil exploration in a disputed part of the Caspian Sea was illegal.

Ashgabat last month told Baku to stop work on two contested oil fields or "be answerable for the consequences."

The war of words between the two ex-Soviet states comes amid rising tension over the status of the sea–which contains huge reserves of oil and gas. Last month–Iran ordered two Baku-licensed ships out of what it said were Iranian waters.

In an open diplomatic note sent to Ashgabat–Baku said it would not accept "any claims aimed at thwarting the realization of its sovereign rights in a sector of the Caspian Sea which belongs to Azerbaijan."

"No claims on specific fields can be considered until the coordinates of a median line between all the Caspian littoral states is defined," the note said.

Baku said it was ready to push ahead with talks on how potentially huge energy deposits in the inland sea should be divided between the five states surrounding it–Russia–Azerbaijan–Iran–Turkmen’stan and Kazakhstan.

The current status of the sea is governed by agreemen’s between Iran and the Soviet Union–when there were only two Caspian neighbors.

While the five new neighbors disagree on who owns which part of the Caspian–this has not stopped them offering exploration and production blocks to foreign oil companies in what they consider their territorial waters.

Meanwhile in Iran–the Entenkhab newspaper published an interview Thursday with two members of the National Security Committee of the Islamic Parliament titled "Turkey must resolve its internal problems rather than interfere in Caspian."

The same newspaper reported that the Turkish government has given official notice to the Iranian Ambassador of Turkey stressing that Iran must respect the national interests of Azerbaijan.

According to The Entenkhab the notice clearly states that ignoring the right of Azerbaijan by Iran will hinder relations between Ankara and Teheran.

"Turkey with its interference is trying to take advantage of the current difficulties in establishing a legal status of the Caspian region. A country which faces major minority and economic problems and has nothing to do with the Caspian is working hard to justify its presence in the region," the newspaper wrote.

The United States backed Azerbaijan in its boundary dispute with Iran on Tuesday–saying that Iranian aircraft had provocatively violated the air space of its northwestern neighbor.

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