Iran Denies Flexing Muscles in Caspian Dispute with Azerbaijan
Iran has rejected allegations by neighboring Azerbaijan that Iranian military aircraft made several incursions into Azeri airspace, according to BBC Online.
The news service quoted the Azeri news agency, Turan, as reporting that in the latest incident on Thursday, two Iranian fighter jets entered Azeri airspace for about 50 minutes, flying over an area about 180 kilometers south of the Azeri capital, Baku.
An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hamid Reza Assefi, denied the reports.
He said the aircraft had been on a routine patrol, adding that Tehran respected the borders of its Caspian neighbor.
On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin offered to mediate in the dispute between Iran and Azerbaijan over ownership of part of the oil-rich Caspian, according to the BBC.
However, an Iranian Foreign Ministry official denied on Wednesday an agency report saying that the Iranian ambassador to Moscow had been summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry, reported the Tehran Times.
AFP had reported Moscow's concerns over an incident last week in which an Iranian warship threatened an Azeri oil-research vessel in the oil-rich Caspian Sea.
The agency said that Iran's ambassador in Moscow, Mahdi Safari, was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry last Tuesday.
But the Iranian official said such reports were “baseless.”
At the same time, the paper said that two Russian news agencies, Interfax and Itar-Tass, had reported that Russian Deputy Foreign Ministers Viktor Kalyuzhny and Alexander Losyukov expressed their concern to the Iranian ambassador to Russia, who had been invited to Russia's Foreign Ministry in Moscow.
Russia urged Iran and Azerbaijan to act in a good-neighborly spirit, show wisdom and restraint and immediately start talks to find a solution, Interfax said, adding that Russia had offered to mediate.
The Azeri geological survey vessel Geophysic-3 was approached on July 23 by an Iranian warship in Caspian waters about 150 kilometers (90 miles) south of Azerbaijan's capital, Baku.
Azeri President Heydar Aliyev, meanwhile, was quoted by Reuters as saying that he would not allow a row with Iran over ownership of part of the oil-rich Caspian Sea to undermine relations between the neighbors.
Aliyev told reporters that Azerbaijan would maintain "peaceful relations with our southern neighbor," and that he would go ahead with a planned visit to Iran this month.
"We will never allow the deterioration of relations with Iran," Aliyev said before departing for Russia for an informal summit of Commonwealth of Independent States, a grouping of former Soviet republics – Albawaba.com
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