Azerbaijan on Wednesday dismissed an Iranian protest over its reported deal to buy arms worth $1.5 billion from Tehran’s foe Israel amid increased tensions between the neighboring states.
Azebaijan’s Ambassador to Tehran was called in to the Foreign Ministry Tuesday to explain the weapons and to receive a warning that Israel must not be permitted to use Azerbaijan to stage “terrorist acts” against Iran.
Iranian news agencies reported that the Ambassador, Javanshir Akhundov, acknowledged the arms purchase after getting confirmation from his government.
He explained that the weapons were bought “to liberate occupied Azerbaijani land,” but did not elaborate, according to the reports.
The Iranian agencies quoted Akhundov saying that Baku “will not allow the weapons to be used against third nations, in particular the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
The reports came a week after police in Azerbaijan said they arrested an unspecified number of people linked to Iran and to the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah on suspicion of planning attacks in the country.
On February 12, Iran accused Azerbaijan, which is mainly Muslim, of working with Israel’s spy services and helping assassins who murdered Iranian nuclear scientists in recent years.
Baku has rejected Tehran’s claim as “slander”.
Relations between Tehran and Baku have been tense for several months.
In January, Azerbaijan said it had detained two people allegedly linked to Iranian intelligence accused of plotting attacks.
And in October 2011, Iran accused its northwestern neighbor’s Security Forces of shooting dead an Iranian border guard who had strayed into Azerbaijan.
Israel’s ties with Azerbaijan, a Muslim country that became independent with the disintegration of the Soviet Union, have grown as its once-strong strategic relationship with another Iranian neighbor, Turkey, has deteriorated, most sharply over Israel’s killing of 9 Turks aboard a ship that sought to breach Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip in 2010.
For Israeli intelligence, there is also a possible added benefit from Azerbaijan: Its significant cross-border contacts and trade with Iran’s large ethnic Azeri community.
Source: AFP; IRNA; Photo: Reuters