Iran has rejected claims that a new, potentially huge oil deposit in the Caspian Sea is in Azerbaijan's waters, while Baku remains conspicuously silent on the issue. BBC Monitoring reports, via the Iranian Students' News Agency:
The oil minister [of Iran] has rejected a claim by the Azerbaijani government to the ownership of the Sardar Jangal oil field [in the Caspian Sea].
As ISNA reported, asked about his opinion on the recent statement by the Azerbaijani government on the Sardar Jangal oil field and reasons behind such a claim, Rostam Qasemi said: This is a claim; we are drilling the Sardar Jangal oil field.
He added: Sardar Jangal is a completely separate oil field and is within Iran's territory. It belongs to our country.
To review: last year, Iran claimed that it had found a massive new oil reserve in the Caspian. But Iran's description of where the deposit was appears to place it in waters that Azerbaijan claims.
Also recently, Iran has said it is building a refinery on the Caspian to process crude from the field. (Though Tehran's projections of the size of the field appear to have decreased, from 10 billion barrels to 2 billion, of which 500 million are recoverable.)
It's not clear what statement by the Azerbaijani government this ISNA story refers to. I asked several knowledgeable sources in Baku, and none of them knew. And as far as I can tell, Azerbaijan has never addressed the location of this field. Which would suggest that Azerbaijan is not interested in picking a fight with Iran over this. A fascinating set of Wikleaks cables from 2009 describe military tension between the two countries over oil explorations that seem likely to be related to this same field. In those cables, Azerbaijani officials bemoan the fact that they are militarily unable to challenge Iran on this. So are they just going to let Iran take their oil?