May 27, 2023

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Baku should heed the Ukraine lesson

TEHRAN – Tensions between Iran and the Republic of Azerbaijan have turned into a daily occurrence as a result of Baku’s “emotional and non-constructive” moves.

Over the last few weeks, Azerbaijani authorities have initiated a concerted campaign against Iran at the media and diplomatic levels. Azerbaijani media outlets are now disseminating slanted reports against Iran almost on a daily basis with the Baku officials providing them with the stuff they need. 

Azerbaijan accused Iran of recruiting spies, supporting terrorist groups, and siding with Armenia among other things. Recently, Azerbaijan conducted a purge among Azerbaijani clerics and religious people. Also, it declared four Iranian embassy staff as persona non grata in a move that further escalated tensions between the two sides. 

Iran’s response has been relatively restrained and measured. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani described Azerbaijan’s recent actions as “harsh, emotional, and non-constructive.”

Kanaani said, “We believe that such a behavior by the government of the Republic of Azerbaijan is at odds with the principles of neighborliness.”

He added that while crises and tension have engulfed the occupied Palestinian territories and the Zionist regime is at its weakest point and at a time when the regime wants to distract attention from its multiple internal crises inside occupied Palestine by attacking fasting Muslims and desecrating al-Aqsa Mosque, the Islamic Republic of Iran thinks that focusing on unity in the Muslim world and simultaneously countering normalization of ties with the criminal and usurping regime of Israel is a must and a religious and humane duty.  

Kanaani urged Azerbaijan to observe mutual respect, move toward good neighborly ties and avoid what is desired by the Zionists and enemies of the region.

The Foreign Ministry spokesman added that Iran underlines the need for observing the principles of neighborly relations and watching out for the evil aim of the Zionist regime to cause division and tension in ties between Muslim countries. At the same time, Kanaani added, Tehran is contemplating diplomatic moves in response.

In addition to its public statements, Iran has sought to soothe tensions through diplomatic channels. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian spoke to his Azerbaijani counterpart twice in recent days. 

Amir Abdollahian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhoun Bayramov held two rounds of intensive talks (Friday evening and on Saturday afternoon) about the current developments in bilateral ties between Baku and Tehran and some regional issues, according to the Iranian foreign ministry.

In these candid and transparent conversations, Amir Abdollahian and Bayramov exchanged views over the existing differences and misunderstandings and explored ways to get out of the current situation.

Amir Abdollahian and Bayramov also underlined the necessity of controlling the media atmosphere in favor of the interests of the two nations.

In its interactions with Azerbaijan, Iran has been reiterating the need for Baku to be aware of Israel’s plots in the region. Referring to the plot of the Zionist regime against the unity, security, and progress of regional nations, Amir Abdollahian said only enemies would benefit from disputes between countries of the region.

Pundits believe that the Republic of Azerbaijan needs to learn from the lessons of the Ukraine war, which indicated that the West has forsaken its promises of support for its allies. Nour News said in a recent report that the West let down President Zelensky of Ukraine despite the fact that they had vowed before the war to support him in the face of Russia. But when the war broke out, Western “strategic” support turned into a tactical one.

Nour News implied that the U.S. is hatching a similar plot for the Republic of Azerbaijan, meaning that the U.S. is pushing Azerbaijan to escalate tensions with Iran. According to the outlet, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sulivan and Secretary of State Tony Blinken are secretly lobbying the U.S. Senate for an increase of military aid to Baku. These efforts, Nour News said, are aimed at pushing Azerbaijan into an all-out crisis. 

“Part of America’s special game in the crisis in Karabakh is derived from NATO’s calculated failure in the Ukraine war, especially in recent weeks,” the outlet said. “Officials of the Biden administration have advised him that perhaps by creating a parallel crisis, even on a limited scale, it is possible to prevent public opinion from focusing on NATO’s logistical, field, and calculation weakness in the Ukraine war.”

With the U.S. nudging Azerbaijan towards a crisis with Iran, observers believe that it is imperative for Azerbaijan to be cautious in undertaking actions that might escalate tensions in the South Caucasus region.  

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