Tensions run high between Tehran, Baku

6 October 2021 10:49 (UTC+04:00)

By Vafa Ismayilova

Baku has officially dismissed as unfounded Tehran’s claims on the alleged presence of third forces on the Iran-Azerbaijan border.

Azerbaijan, which has never allowed third countries to use its territory against Iran, also never let any country to interfere in its internal affairs.

Iranian officials, who have recently come up with anti-Azerbaijani statements, should take these realities into account in their populist remarks against Azerbaijan.

Baku rejects Tehran’s allegations

On October 4, the Foreign Ministry ruled out any threat to Azerbaijan and its neighbors.

"In general, the presence on the territory of Azerbaijan of any forces, including terrorist ones, which may pose a threat to our state and neighboring countries, cannot be a subject of discussion,"  Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Leyla Abdullayeva said.

Later, President Ilham Aliyev also rejected the allegations.  He stressed that Baku did not react to an Iranian provincial cleric's anti-Azerbaijan remarks, which further paved the way for unfounded official accusations against the country.

“Azerbaijan has allegedly brought Israel to these regions. Let them open their eyes wide and look. Where did they see Israel here? Not a single person lives here. There is no building here. Is there evidence? No. If there is no evidence, everyone should be held accountable for what they say. We cannot allow anyone to fabricate baseless slander against us," Aliyev said.

He described the accusations as “disrespect” for Azerbaijan.

“This is disrespectful. We can never accept that. Everyone should know this. Azerbaijan will continue to plan its foreign relations and domestic affairs the way it considers expedient. Let no one interfere in our affairs,” the president stressed.

The head of state underlined that Azerbaijan has not violated any country’s borders.

“There are maps, maps of 1920, maps of Tsarist Russia. Let them come and see where the border lies. We consider the territory where we are stationed the territory of Azerbaijan and we are right,” the president noted.

Aliyev drew attention to the fact that the Armenian leadership clearly states at the highest level that Azerbaijan is rightly located in a certain part of the Gorus-Gafan road that connects Armenia with Iran.

A small section of this route passes through Azerbaijan in Gubadli region’s Eyvazli village.

“Because the maps of the Soviet era show that. We are in our own territory. Armenia says this now, but someone else says that we have violated someone's borders. This is ridiculous. Therefore, a new era is beginning in the region. We believe that this period should be channeled in a positive direction," the president stressed.

He underlined that Azerbaijan cleared of occupiers the 130-km section of the Azerbaijani-Iranian border.

"A total of 130 kilometers was under Armenian occupation. They should investigate what processes were going on here at that time," he stressed.

Iranian love for Armenia

During the occupation of Azerbaijani territories, Muslim countries supported Azerbaijan. Pakistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and even Djibouti did not establish diplomatic relations with Armenia.

Against the background of this, only Iran, which accuses Azerbaijan of cooperating with Israel,  continues to pursue a strong pro-Armenian policy.

Tehran openly demonstrates this in its actions. As a result of this policy, today in the world Iran has no friend other than Armenia. It looks at everyone - the West, the East, Islamic countries and Christian countries with hostility.

A number of simple facts in Iran’s behavior shows that for Muslim, Shi’i Iran, a fraternal and friendly country is Armenia, which for about 30 years held under its occupation the lands of Muslim Azerbaijan, committed genocide against Azerbaijani civilians in Khojaly, destroyed a large number of mosques, turning some of them into a place for keeping livestock.

Earlier,  Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan thanked Iran for its relentless support, which considerably helped Armenia survive in the 1990s.

"We will never forget that Iran was a ‘road of life’ for Armenia in the early 1990s," Pashinyan said.

The Armenian PM is right as Iran, unlike Turkey, did not close its borders with Armenia after it occupied Shusha, Lachin, Kalbajar, and other territories. Iran has openly supported the occupying country, which is acknowledged by Pashinyan.

After Azerbaijan’s victory in the Second Karabakh War, Iran described as "a shameless phenomenon to call Azerbaijanis killed in the Karabakh war as martyrs, since martyrs cannot fight with Israeli weapons”.

All this gives a clear picture of the degree of the cynicism of official Tehran, which still fails to accept the new realities.

Things are tending to change following Azerbaijan’s victory in the 44-day war. Azerbaijan regained full control of its Iranian border, including the important connections that were used to allow Iranian trucks to get through to Karabakh.

 Iran’s hypocrisy

Many in Azerbaijan ponder why Iran, which speaks of Muslim solidarity and “fraternity” with Azerbaijan,  did not shake a finger at Armenia, which invaded and destroyed Azerbaijani lands and insulted mosques.

In his recent interview with a local TV channel, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian officially confirmed that Tehran supplies fuel to Karabakh.

Pointing to recent problems over Iranian energy supplies to Armenia and Karabakh, he described the arrest of two Iranian drivers in Azerbaijan as “unacceptable”.

So, the open admission of the fact that Iran supplies energy to Karabakh separatists without Baku’s consent clearly shows that Tehran’s statements on the recognition of Azerbaijan's territorial integrity and sovereignty are complete hypocrisy.

Baku, which can observe all who enter Khankandi knows the real volumes of this illegal trade, which is an open disrespect for Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity.

Although Baku repeatedly expressed its concern to Tehran from time to time, the latter preferred to deny the obvious. Now, through its foreign minister, Iran openly acknowledged its support for Karabakh separatism.

Prior to this scandalous confession, Azerbaijan did what it should have done in response to the Iranian provocations. Baku started charging customs fees for the trucks passing through the Gorus-Gafan road, the only motorway connecting Armenia to Iran. While Tehran officially remained silent on these additional costs, Azerbaijan arrested some drivers for entering Azerbaijan from Armenia illegally.

Thanks to the installation of the Azerbaijani checkpoint on the road, it was disclosed that the Azerbaijani city of Khankandi is listed as the Armenian "Stepanakert" in the documents of the Iranians, which can be regarded as an element of Iran’s official policy.

Over the past 30 years, a significant portion of the border was under Armenian control in Karabakh, which enabled Iran to develop trade with the illegal occupation regime.

Reports revealed that Iran profited from the occupation by supplying fuel, food, and other materials to separatists and getting benefits in exchange, such as "laundering US-sanctioned money through Armenian banks", according to some international news sources.

Iran drills

It is paradoxical that Azerbaijan, which fought against Armenian terrorism for decades, now sees threats from Iran, which was included by the US State Department in the list of states sponsoring terrorism back on January 19, 1984.

According to the US State Department, it provides financial, material and logistical support to terrorist militant groups in the Middle East and Central Asia. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is said to be the main body and mechanism for supporting terrorists.

Against the background of all this, Abdollahian stressed in his recent interview that Iran conducted “military exercises on the border of the Republic of Azerbaijan and sent a signal to the Zionists and terrorists in the region”.

The fact that the Iranians are fighting Zionism, but for some reason, they are conducting exercises near the Azerbaijani borders, and not in the south of Lebanon or near the Golan Heights in Syria is noteworthy.

Iran, which is tight-lipped about Israeli bomb attacks in the abovementioned areas, moved towards “fraternal Azerbaijan” with armored units, artillery, drones, and combat helicopters, warning against the presence of Zionism in the region.

It should be noted that Iran, which still cannot adapt to the new regional realities that occurred after the Second Karabakh War between Azerbaijan and Armenia, conducted military exercises close to the Azerbaijan border, for the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union.

This surprising step of Iran was questioned also by President Ilham Aliyev why Iran did not make such a move during the three decades of Armenian occupation.

Although the Iranian ambassador in Baku said the drills were not meant to be a threat, some important figures in Iran did not share this view.

Some experts believe that Iran's tough reaction is a reflection of its isolation and weakening in the South Caucasus after the Second Karabakh War. Now it is dominated by Russia and Turkey. And Iran is now losing the opportunity even to influence Armenia, because transport routes now go through Azerbaijan, and not occupied Karabakh.

President Aliyev said in Jabrayil that Turkey and Russia play a big role in establishing stability in the region.

“In other words, this format is sufficient for us. Armenia will also join this format. Because there is no other option. That is the reality now,” he said.

Aliyev also stressed Azerbaijan’s support to the recent statements regarding the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations.

“We believe that this is necessary for the region. In other words, it is necessary to eliminate any risk of war. This format is sufficient for us – Turkey-Russia-Azerbaijan-Armenia. Anyone interested in joining in may join, those who aren’t are in a better position to judge. In any case, no initiative can be realized in this region without the consent of Azerbaijan,” the president emphasized.

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