Iran has “serious concerns” about Israel’s presence in the Caucasus, as tensions mount between Iran and Azerbaijan over Baku’s ties with Israel, a major arms supplier.
Iran’s new Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, who is in Moscow for talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, said on Wednesday that Iran “certainly will not tolerate geopolitical change and map change in the Caucasus”.
“We have serious concerns about the presence of terrorists and Zionists in this region,” Amirabdollahian told reporters in Moscow.
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Tension has been high between Iran and Azerbaijan, which share a 700km (430 mile) border, since mid-September.
Iran’s army and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have recently mobilised forces and held military drills close to its northwestern borders with Azerbaijan amid lingering tensions following Azerbaijan’s 44-day war with Armenia last year.
Azerbaijan and Turkey, in response, launched a joint military drill starting on Wednesday.
The day before the drills were launched, Amirabdollahian told his Azerbaijani counterpart that Iran would not tolerate Israel’s presence or activity “next to our borders” and vowed to take any necessary action.
Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev said on Tuesday that Baku “will not leave unanswered” Tehran’s “baseless” accusations of an Israeli military presence on its soil.
Iran’s Tasnim News Agency, affiliated with the IRGC, said on Tuesday that the representative office of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Baku was closed by Azeri officials.
Iranian state-run news outlets later denied the report, saying only a religious gathering centre was closed due to COVID-19 protocols.
Before his meeting with Lavrov, Amirabdollahian said Iran expects Russia “to be sensitive about any potential changes in borders across the region, and be sensitive about the presence of terrorists and the movements of the Zionist regime that threatens regional peace and stability”.
Before the talks with Lavrov, Amirabdollahian said Iran was after a “big jump in relations” with Russia as the government of President Ebrahim Raisi sought to quickly expand ties across the region.
Amirabdollahian added that he expects negotiations on the Iran nuclear deal to restart in Austria soon.
“I emphasised that we are now finalising consultations on this matter and will soon restore our negotiations in Vienna,” he said.
Interfax news agency reported quoting Amirabdollahian Tehran had received “signals” that Washington – which abandoned the 2015 nuclear pact under the previous administration – was once again interested in implementing it.
Amirabdollahian has said the new Iranian administration is still reviewing the records of six rounds of talks in Vienna that concluded on July 20.
Additional reporting by Maziar Motamedi in Tehran