New Delhi, Oct 16: Iran has advised Azerbaijan to be cautious of “devil’s costly traps” and avoid making false statements which could permanently damage the relations between the two countries.
While addressing a virtual meeting of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Council of Heads of State on Friday, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev had accused Iran of conspiring with Armenia and promoting drug trafficking for nearly three decades.
Aliyev said that by regaining control over a 130-kilometer section of the state border with Iran that had been under Armenian control for nearly 30 years, Azerbaijan has closed the drug trafficking route from Iran through Armenia’s Jabrayil region to Armenia and then to Europe.
“The volume of heroin seized by us in other areas of the Azerbaijani-Iranian border has doubled compared to the same period last year. This means that for about 30 years, Armenia, together with Iran, used the then occupied territories of Azerbaijan for drug trafficking to Europe,” said the President of Azerbaijan.
Reacting strongly to the comments, Tehran said that “ignoring the principles and requirements of the neighbourhood and making false and unconstructive statements” is not a sign of good faith and prudence.
“Accusation against a country that the world recognises as a hero in the fight against drugs has no effect other than invalidating the speaker’s words. Beware of the devil’s costly traps,” said Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani in a series of tweets.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry also strongly rejected the “astonishing new allegations” made by Aliyev, calling them “fabricated”.
Tehran emphasised the “leading role” played by Iran in the fight against drug trafficking, highlighting that thousands of martyrs and wounded Iranians during the past four decades in the fight against this “ominous phenomenon” is part of the country’s committed and continuous efforts on this path and which has been acknowledged by relevant international institutions over and over again.
“Unfortunately, it seems that despite the private and positive messages received from Baku in different calls, there is an intention on the part of Baku to make baseless media statements, which, of course, will be answered in due manner,” said Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh.
Countering ‘Three Brothers’
The fresh war of words is the latest addition to the escalating tensions between the two neighbours which share a 700-km long border.
Tehran is becoming increasingly worried about the rising Azerbaijani nationalism inside Iran, where over 25 percent of the population is ethnic Azeri.
Analysts believe that in the name of “combatting Islamophobia” and promoting “peaceful co-existence” of Muslim communities all over the world, Azerbaijan is busy nurturing a trilateral partnership with Turkey and Pakistan to increase its influence on the Azeris of Iran, especially after the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The trio also held a two-week long trilateral exercise ‘Three Brothers – 2021’ in Baku mid-September in which special forces from the three countries focused on targeting threats and fostering interoperability.
Referring Azerbaijan, Turkey and Pakistan as “close friends and brothers”, Commander of the Azerbaijani Special Forces Lieutenant General H Mirzayev said that Ankara and Islamabad’s support “from the first day” of the 44-day counter-offensive operations launched by Azerbaijan against the Armenian armed forces says a lot about the close ties enjoyed between “our” people.
“Today, cooperation between our countries in all areas is at the highest level. Important measures are being taken to further strengthen and develop our relations to ensure the region’s and peoples’ security,” said Mirzayev.
Infuriated Iran then held a military drill codenamed Fatehan-e Khaybar (Conquerors of Khyber) along its Azeri borders, saying that it will not tolerate foreign presence in the northwest region of the country.
Tehran reaches out to Moscow
Tehran has also intensified diplomatic efforts to play an active role in the region which is witnessing some intense geopolitical activity after the Taliban’s return in Afghanistan.
Amirabdollahian also told Jeyhun Bayramov, the foreign Minister of Azerbaijan, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly that “third parties should not be allowed” to affect the good relations between the two countries.
On October 14 – “at the initiative of the Iranian side” – Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov held a telephonic conversation with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir Abdollahian.
According to the Russian foreign ministry, the situation around the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iranian nuclear program was examined as both parties “synchronized watches” on key issues of the bilateral agenda, which were discussed during the talks between the two ministers in Moscow on October 6.
On Friday, Abdollahian also dialled China’s State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and updated him on the resumption of talks between Iran and the European Union, which took place on Friday.
The two sides also expressed their readiness to implement the 25-year cooperation document and agreed that the talks will continue at the same level in Brussels in the coming weeks.
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