Iranian-Azerbaijani relations are entering a new stage

Iranian-Azerbaijani relations are entering a new stage

Last week, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s official visit to Baku signaled the revival of relations between the two countries.

During his visit, Mohammad Javad Zarif met with President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov. The meetings were held to discuss a number of important  issues.

Official Tehran is interested in new opportunities for cooperation in the region after the 44-day Karabakh war, while Iran is interested in making the most of regional projects. Iranian officials have spoken openly about this and they want to take part in reconstruction projects in Karabakh.

Azerbaijan welcomed Iran’s request, having not forgotten Iran’s position during the 44-day war. Tehran has repeatedly stated its support for Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and its support for a peaceful solution to the conflict. Iran’s position is completely satisfactory to Azerbaijan, and official Baku calls Iran a friendly country.

However, there are countries that are jealous of this friendship between the two countries and try to overshadow their relationship from time to time. The United States and Israel are more active in this regard.

US and Israel’s concern in the region

In the past, Israel has tried to indirectly disrupt Iranian-Azerbaijani relations, but today it is doing so openly. Thus, in a video message shared on his Twitter account, Israeli Ambassador to Azerbaijan George Deek called Iran the world’s number one state sponsor of terror. This is not only unethical behavior, but also an attempt to raise the anti-Iranian propaganda campaign in Azerbaijan.

This statement of the Israeli diplomat is unacceptable. First of all, because Iran and Azerbaijan are neighboring countries, there are many political, economic and cultural ties between the two countries. Millions of Azerbaijani Turks live in Iran today. The Israeli ambassador knows this very well, but still makes such risky statements. Azerbaijan does not accept the function of a platform country or agree to serve as a battlefield for the parties to the conflict. It is committed to a policy of friendship and good relations with its neighbors.

Azerbaijan’s friendship with Iran has a solid basis. Both countries are members of the North-South transport corridor. The purpose of this project is to reduce the delivery time from Russia to Iran and the East, as well as to Northern and Western Europe. Both countries are working to connect international railway networks.

New opportunities in the region following the 44-day war are also important for Iran. The opening of communications there creates opportunities for the opening of the North-South and East-West corridors, as well as the railway between Armenia and Iran. Of course, multilateral agreements must be signed for this. These issues were widely discussed during Javad Zarif’s visit to Baku.

Iran, which has a stake in regional projects, will become more important in the world, and the Biden administration, which accepts the reality, may lift sanctions against them. If the United States lifts sanctions against Iran, it could give a positive impetus to Azerbaijani-Iranian relations.

Currently, the international isolation of Iran has not allowed economic relations between Azerbaijan and Iran to increase to the desired level.

However, I do not believe that only economic and transport issues were discussed during Javad Zarif’s visit to Azerbaijan. Security issues were almost certainly discussed as well.

Azerbaijan`s interest in Iranian-Armenian relations

Some forces trying to damage political relations between Azerbaijan and Iran are trying to keep Iranian-Armenian relations on the agenda. These forces, claiming that Iran cooperates with Armenia in various fields while emphasizing the strength of the Armenian community in Iran, are trying to cool relations between the two neighboring countries by conducting anti-Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

We must not forget that each country has its own national interests, and Iran has the right to establish normal relations with all its neighbors, including Armenia.

At the same time, we must not forget Azerbaijan’s relations with the United States and Israel, something which Tehran is naturally concerned about.

It is even more important for Azerbaijan, which has restored its territorial integrity, to further strengthen ties with Iran and expand regional transport opportunities. Baku does not intend to join the enmity of third countries with Iran, which would be of no benefit to Azerbaijan.

Iran’s good relations with Armenia are also an opportunity for Azerbaijan. Along with Russia, Iran can also take advantage of mediation opportunities to persuade official Yerevan on a number of regional projects. This is very well understood in Baku. In this regard, Azerbaijan attaches great importance to relations with Iran.

Ahmad Shahidov

Head of the Azerbaijan Institute for Democracy and Human Rights

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December 2021