Iran FM meets Azerbaijani counterpart amid border tensions

September 24, 2021 - 19:7

TEHRAN – Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian has met with his Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov to discuss a variety of bilateral issues including an ongoing row over Azerbaijan’s decision to detain Iranian truck drivers passing through the Karabakh region to Armenia.

The meeting was held in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. At the beginning of the Thursday meeting, the Azeri foreign minister welcomed the holding of a three-way meeting between Iran, Turkey and the Republic of Azerbaijan in Tehran.

Bayramov described the relations between the two countries as having very positive dynamics and going in the right direction. He also thanked Iran for its support for the territorial integrity of the Republic of Azerbaijan, according to the Iranian foreign ministry.

Emphasizing his country's readiness to cooperate with the Islamic Republic of Iran in all fields, including political, economic, trade and cultural spheres, the Azeri foreign minister said that on behalf of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Shahin Mustafayev is ready to contact his Iranian counterpart within the two countries’ joint commission. He also said the Azerbaijan Republic is ready to pursue joint projects in the Caspian Sea with Iran, calling for regular interactions and consultations at various levels.

The Iranian foreign minister also said relations between Iran and the Republic of Azerbaijan are highly important and expressed hope that the previous agreements would be implemented. Abdollahian noted that the new Iranian government has given special priority to relations with neighbors.

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 also noted that important projects and cooperation in various fields such as electricity, gas, dam construction, trade and transit, including the Astara railway terminal and cooperation between the private and public sectors of Iran and Azerbaijan Republic have been defined and will be pursued by the two sides.

Abdollahian called the reconstruction of the liberated areas (of the Nagorno-Karabakh region) a ground for extensive cooperation between the two countries. He also stressed that some third parties should not be allowed to affect the good relations between the two countries.

The 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 between the two sides, according to the Iranian foreign ministry.

The meeting came amid rising tensions between Iran and Azerbaijan due to a number of reasons, most notably the latter’s decision to impose a staggering tax on Iranian trucks bound for Armenia. In addition to this tax, Azerbaijan detained at least two Iranian truck drivers in the Karabakh region. On August 11, the Azerbaijani foreign ministry “invited” the Iranian ambassador to Baku to protest the passage of Iranian trucks. 

“During the meeting, [the Iranian] 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 Azerbaijani foreign ministry said in a statement. 

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 an one-on-one meeting between Abdollahian and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly’s annual conference.

In the meeting held on Wednesday night, the two sides discussed bilateral and regional issues, especially developments in Afghanistan and Syria.

As for bilateral cooperation, the two sides agreed that a meeting of the Iran-Turkey Strategic Committee be held upon the Turkish foreign minister’s trip before the upcoming summit, and that the agenda for a meeting of the High Committee be drawn up.

They also agreed that a trilateral meeting between Iran, Azerbaijan Republic and Turkey be held in Tehran.

In the meeting, Abdollahian highlighted strategic relations between the two countries.
During the tenure of the new Iranian administration, he said, the Iranian first vice president will co-chair the Iran-Turkey Joint Commission, which is a serious improvement in that regard.

He said Iran stands ready to hold meetings of the joint commission which have been delayed for some time.

In the meeting, Abdollahian also conveyed to Cavusoglu an invitation message from Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi for his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

As for regional issues, Iran’s foreign minister underlined new developments are unfolding in the region, and highlighted the need for regular consultations between Tehran and Ankara more than ever before.

Abdollahian also touched upon developments in Afghanistan.

“We are in contact with all sides in this country, but what is very important is the necessity of the formation of an all-inclusive government as the lasting solution for peace and stability in Afghanistan,” the top Iranian diplomat said, according to the Iranian foreign ministry.

The Turkish foreign minister, in turn, welcomed the upgrading of the level of presidency of the Iran-Turkey Joint Commission, and said on Turkey’ side, too, the vice president will co-chair the committee.

Cavusoglu lambasted sanctions against Iran, and noted illegal and unilateral sanctions against Iran should be lifted.

He expressed readiness to attend a trilateral meeting in Tehran, saying he is ready to travel to Tehran to resume consultations.

He also touched upon regional issues, saying the two countries are facing common regional challenges, including the situation in Afghanistan, which makes closer consultations all the more necessary.

He also emphasized the significance of the formation of a broad-based government in Afghanistan, and voiced concern over the possible escalation of violence and extremism in the country.

It is noteworthy that the two sides also agreed on visits to Iran by Turkish interior and justice ministers as well as the extradition of criminals.