Government advises caution on trips to Iran

Azerbaijan`s Foreign Ministry calls on citizens to be cautious while traveling to Iran, spokesman Elman Abdullayev said.

``The latest incident regarding the detention of Azerbaijani poets in Iran is vivid proof of this,`` Abdullayev told reporters last Friday. ``Why do citizens of Azerbaijan have to deal with such cases in a country that calls itself friendly towards us?``

The Foreign Ministry is compelled to make such a statement and advise Azerbaijani citizens not to travel to Iran where they may face similar instances, Abdullayev said.

``Nobody can be immune from the fact that tomorrow they would be detained in that country [Iran], and absurd accusations would be brought against them,`` Abdullayev said.

He regarded this attitude of the Iranian side to the neighboring country`s citizens as ``unclear and unacceptable``.

Two Azerbaijani poets, Farid Huseyn and Shahriyar Hajizada, who headed to Iran in late April to participate at a poetry festival, were arrested on May 2. Azerbaijan`s Foreign Ministry has sent five diplomatic notes to the Iranian government over the case. The Iranian Foreign Ministry recently confirmed the arrest of the two Azerbaijani citizens, saying the poets were accused of ``attempting to commit a crime``, without elaborating. Afterwards, Iran`s state English language TV channel, Press TV, reported that Iranian officials had interrogated the two Azerbaijan nationals on espionage charges. Press TV claimed that the detained poets were on a mission to recruit dissidents in Iran to promote separatism and also linked them to Azerbaijan`s secret services. Iranian news websites claimed that the Azerbaijani poets were accused of drug trafficking and spying for Israel. Azerbaijan`s Foreign Ministry dismissed the spying charges as unfounded.

Leading youth groups have issued an appeal to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon saying that the United Nations should take ``principled and resolute`` action on the issue by urging Iran to release the Azerbaijani poets.

Tensions have escalated between the two nations over a number of issues including Azerbaijan`s accusations that Iran plotted terrorist attacks in the capital Baku.

Earlier this year, Azerbaijan arrested 22 people and accused them of spying for Iran.

Ties have also been strained recently over reported closer ties between Azerbaijan and Iranian rival Israel.