Iranian, Azerbaijani FMs hold phone talks

October 24, 2021 - 19:56

TEHRAN – Iranian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers held the second phone conversation in less than a month amid border tensions between Tehran and Baku that resulted in a media war of words and extensive diplomatic contacts.

But these tensions now seem to be fading away as the two sides opted for de-escalation. In the latest sign of improvement in Iran-Azerbaijan relations, Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov discussed bilateral relations between Tehran and Baku in a telephone conversation on Saturday. 

In this conversation, Amir Abdollahian referred to the recent constructive contacts between the two ministers, praising the Republic of Azerbaijan for the release of two Iranian drivers detained in the country, the Iranian foreign ministry said. 

The Iranian foreign minister described the move as a constructive step that can provide the necessary room to resolve misunderstandings.

He also called for more positive steps and urged Baku to facilitate the movement of Iranian trucks in border areas with the Republic of Azerbaijan.

Amir Abdollahian emphasized the need to adopt a positive approach and look to the future by the two countries and said the joint economic commission of Iran and the Republic of Azerbaijan should be activated as soon as possible.

Iran’s foreign minister noted that Tehran is determined to deepen bilateral relations with Baku. Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Bayramov also welcomed the positive steps taken by the two countries to clear up the misunderstandings. He described the release of the two Iranian drivers and Iran’s move to order relevant organizations in the Islamic Republic regarding border traffic laws as a message from both sides to clear up misunderstandings.

The top Azerbaijani diplomat also noted that the definition of joint economic projects between the two countries has positive effects for the activation of their joint economic commission.

At the end of the conversation, the two sides agreed to continue consultations. 

This was the second conversation between Amir Abdollahian and Bayramov in October. Earlier this month, the two foreign ministers had held a phone conversation to discuss the state of relations between the two countries. In this conversation, the two sides “noted the harmful rhetoric observed recently, which does not correspond to the level of friendly relations between our countries, and the need to resolve all differences through dialogue,” according to a statement issued at the time by the Azerbaijani foreign ministry. 

Amir Abdollahian describes his conversation with Azerbaijan’s Bayramov as “frank” and “constructive”.

It added, “The ministers stressed the importance of always respecting the principles of territorial integrity and sovereignty of the countries. It was decided to discuss issues related to transit transportation through the Republic of Azerbaijan by the way of direct contacts between relevant government agencies.”

Commenting on Saturday’s conversation, Amir Abdollahian said he held a “frank” and “constructive” conversation with Bayramov.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Azerbaijan are to Muslim neighbors with a lot of commonalities. I had a frank, cordial, and constructive conversation with my colleague Mr. Jeyhun Bayramov about the forward-moving roadmap of [our] comprehensive relations. Relations between the two governments and nations will be developed in light of mutual respect,” Abdollahian said on Twitter. 

Also on Saturday, the office of the Leader of the Islamic Revolution of Iran, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, opened Azeri-language accounts on Facebook and Twitter in what appeared to an effort to reach out to the Azerbaijani people. 

Over the last weeks, relations between Tehran and Baku soured for a number of reasons. The tensions began in early August when social media users in Iran reported mistreatment of Iranian truck drivers by Azerbaijani forces along the Goris-Kapan Highway which links Iran to Armenia through the newly-liberated Karabakh region. The Iranian trucks were carrying Armenia-bound goods from Iran but due to the change in Karabakh’s borders during a 2020 war had to pass through a road curve into Azerbaijan’s territory.
Azerbaijan also reportedly imposed a staggering tax on Iranian commercial trucks which drew criticism from Iranian merchants.

Azerbaijan confirmed the trucks row by inviting the Iranian ambassador to Baku, Seyed Abbas Mousavi. On August 11, the Azerbaijani foreign ministry issued a statement saying that Mousavi was “invited” to the ministry over the issue of the trucks.

“During the meeting, Ambassador's attention was drawn to the undesirable facts revealed in connection with the illegal travel of trucks belonging to the Islamic Republic of Iran to Karabakh, and Note Verbal was submitted to the opposite side,” the statement said. “Dissatisfaction with the recent continuous entry-exit of various vehicles belonging to the friendly Islamic Republic of Iran to Karabakh region of Azerbaijan without the permission of official Baku is expressed in the Note. Our dissatisfaction, which earlier was conveyed to the Iranian side verbally, was once again raised in front of the Iranian Ambassador during the meeting.”

Iran moved to resolve the issue in a low-key way even though after Azerbaijan closed the highway to Iran’s commercial vehicles. To this end, the Iranian foreign minister and other local officials in border regions reached out to their Azerbaijani counterparts to settle the dispute. 

Amir Abdollahian discussed the issue with Bayramov in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. In this meeting, Amir Abdollahian noted that the new Iranian government has given special priority to relations with neighbors.

Amir Abdollahian said the two countries supported each other in international and regional forums and stressed the need to maintain this spirit. He also called the commonalities of the two countries deep and diverse and reminded that the Islamic Republic of Iran has always supported the territorial integrity of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

The Iranian foreign minister further discussed with his Azerbaijani counterpart the facilitation of transit and traffic of Iranian trucks, as well as some consular issues, including two Iranian drivers detained by Azerbaijani police. The two top diplomats agreed to resolve this issue through contacts, according to the Iranian foreign ministry.

Iran has sought to defuse tensions with Azerbaijan and even intends to hold a trilateral meeting between Iran, Azerbaijan and Turkey in Tehran. This issue was discussed during a one-on-one meeting between Abdollahian and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu on the sidelines of the UN annual conference.


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