Iran Calls for Expansion of Economic Ties with Azerbaijan
Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian has called for expansion of economic ties and resumption of flights between Iran and Azerbaijan following the heightened tensions between the two Caspian littoral states.
As part of a meeting with Azerbaijan’s Deputy Prime Minister Shahin Mustafayev in Tehran, Amir-Abdollahian expressed his satisfaction over the upward trend in trade relations between the two countries and the deep ties between the two nations, the official website of the Iranian Foreign Ministry reported on November 21.
Amir-Abdollahian described the liberation of the territories of Azerbaijan as the basis for the beginning of a new chapter in the economic relations between the two countries and voiced the readiness of Iranian companies to participate in the reconstruction of the liberated Azerbaijani lands.
He also stressed the need to use the two sides’ economic potential in the fields of trade, transport, energy, and tourism and called for the resumption of flights between Tehran and Baku.
For his part, the Azerbaijani deputy prime minister expressed his satisfaction over “constructive discussions” he had with Iran’s oil and roads ministers during his one-day visit to Tehran. He further added that the two countries are about to sign agreements in the energy field.
While referring to the 22 percent rise in trade between the two countries amid the pandemic, Mustafayev said it was a sign of “friendly relations and economic capacities of the sides.”
He also praised “the constructive role” of the two countries’ foreign ministers in overcoming the recent tensions between Iran and Azerbaijan. According to Mustafayev, a meeting of the Joint Commission on Economic Cooperation will be held in early 2022.
On the same day, Azerbaijan’s Deputy Prime Minister held a meeting with Iranian Oil Minister Javad Owji, where the two sides agreed to swap gas supplies to Azerbaijan from neighboring countries, including Turkmenistan.
Following the meeting, the Iranian oil minister said that preliminary negotiations had also been held with the Azerbaijani delegation on the exploitation of oil and gas deposits in the Caspian Sea. He expressed his hope that a “good agreement” would be reached in this regard within the next few weeks.
For his part, Mustafayev praised “successful cooperation” between Azerbaijan and Iran in all fields, including in the energy sphere.
“We talked about a number of new projects in the energy field. I am confident that our discussions will lead to the signing of new documents in the near future,” he added.
Mustafayev’s visit was the first high-ranking visit by an Azerbaijani official to Iran following the tensions that have risen in the past several months over illegal trips of Iranian lorries to certain parts of Azerbaijan’s Karabakh (Garabagh) region, where the Russian peacekeeping forces are temporarily deployed.
On August 11, Iran’s ambassador to Azerbaijan received a Note Verbal from the foreign ministry in addition to an earlier verbal notification about Baku’s dissatisfaction with the illegal transit of goods to the Karabakh region. However, the verbal notification and Note Verbal were ineffective in settling the controversy. From August 11 to September 11, around 60 Iranian trucks illegally traveled to the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. The trucks moved from Iran to Armenia, then to the Karabakh region via the Lachin corridor.
In early September, Azerbaijan’s customs officials began to collect fees from Iranian cargo lorries to use the Azerbaijani section of the road between Armenia’s towns of Gafan and Gorus. On September 15, Azerbaijani border guards detained two Iranian drivers for illegally crossing into Azerbaijan from Armenia. The drivers were later handed over to Iran after Iran’s transportation authorities warned logistics companies against illegally entering Azerbaijan’s Karabakh region.
Amid these events, Tehran accused Baku of allowing Israeli forces on Azerbaijani soil and then conducted large-scale military drills close to its border with Azerbaijan. However, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev described the allegations about the presence of the Israeli forces in the country’s territories as “baseless.”
On November 22, Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh said during his weekly news conference that “the visit by the deputy prime minister of Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijani head of the joint committee of the two countries to Iran - after we overcame some unwanted and unnecessary media tensions thanks to the wisdom of both sides - was planned and was carried out so that the two countries can enter a new phase.”
He added that some “good news” is expected in Tehran-Baku relations, adding that the two sides followed up on the progress of several projects and that more visits are to be held in the coming weeks on various levels.