Azerbaijan–Iran relations

Iran and the Republic of Azerbaijan have had diplomatic relations since 1918.

Context

For most of her history, the territory of the present-day Republic of Azerbaijan was a part of Persian Empire, specifically during the reign of dynasties such as Achaemenid, Parthian, Sassanid, Safavid, and Qajar. The South Caucasus, in general, has been influenced by Iranian culture for thousands of years. Much of the Caucasus was occupied by Russian troops during the 19th century and formally ceded to Russia by Iran, under the terms of the treaties of Gulistan and Turkmenchay. Due to historical, cultural, and religious tiesSvante Cornell, "Small nations and great powers: A Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict in the Caucasus", Richmond : Curzon Press, 2001, pp. 318] , the Republic of Azerbaijan is considered as a part of Greater Iran [http://www.iranica.com/newsite/articles/v5f1/v5f1a032.html "Encyclopaedia Iranica" - "Caucasus and Iran"] ] .

According to Pierre Thorez: "Although throughout history the Caucasus has usually been incorporated in political entities belonging to the Iranian world, at the beginning of the 13th/19th century Russia took it, along with the Transcaucasus, from the Qajars (1133-1342/1779-1924), severing those historical ties. Since the establishment of Soviet power on Caucasian territory, relations with Persia have been reduced to an insignificant level.". According to Tadsuez Swietchowski, the territories of Iran and the republic of Azerbaijan usually shared the same history from the time of ancient Media (ninth to seventh centuries b.c.) and the Persian Empire (sixth to fourth centuries b.c.) [Historical Background Vol. 3, Colliers Encyclopedia CD-ROM, 02-28-1996] .

Iran and Azerbaijan are also both majority Shia and share many cultural connections.

Relations from 1918-1920

The Republic of Azerbaijan was initially founded in 1918 as the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. With the collapse of Tsarist Russia in 1917, the Musavat Party met in Tbilisi on May 28, 1918 and proclaimed independence of their country with the name Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. The decision to use the name Azerbaijan, drew some protests from Iran. According to Tadeusz Swietochowski [Tadeusz Swietochowski, Russia and Azerbaijan: A Borderland in Transition (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995. pg 69] :

In 1919, Qajar Iran and Azerbaijan Democratic Republic did have some exchanges at governmental level. On 16th of July, 1919, the Council of Ministers [of ADR] appointed Adil Khan Ziatkhan, who had up to that time served as Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs, diplomatic representative of the republic of Azerbaijan to the court of the Persian King of Kings ["Внешняя политика контрреволюционных правительств в начале 1919-го года", "Красный Архив", No. 6 (37), 1929, p. 94.] . A Persian delegation headed by Seyyed Zia'eddin Tabatabaee came to Baku, to negotiate transit, tariff, mail, customs, and other such agreements. Speeches were made in which the common bonds between Caucasian Azerbaijan and Iran were stressed [Kazemzadeh, Firuz. "The Struggle for Transcaucasia: 1917-1921", The New York Philosophical Library, 1951, p. 229.] .

In 1920, the Bolshevik 11th Red Army conquered the Caucasus and the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic became Azerbaijan SSR. In 1922, Azerbaijan SSR was incorporated into the Soviet Union, and from that point till 1991, the relations between Iran and Azerbaijan continued in the context of the Soviet-Iranian relations. However after World War II, the Azerbaijani Ministry of Foreign Affairs could issue limited visas for travel to Iran only and Iran also maintained a consulate in Baku [http://countrystudies.us/azerbaijan/36.htm Foreign Relations of Azerbaijan] ] .

Relations from 1991 to present

Iran was one of the first countries to establish full diplomatic relations with Azerbaijan. Following the declaration of the Parliament of Azerbaijan to restore independence of Azerbaijan Republic On October 18, 1991 and in in early December 1991, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati visited Baku, where he signed a number of agreements on political, economic, and cultural cooperation and pledged to support Azerbaijan's membership in the Organisation of the Islamic Conference. Within the few days after the visit, Iran recognized Azerbaijan on January 4, 1992, upgraded its consulate in Baku to establish full diplomatic relationsJames P. Nichol. "Diplomacy in the Former Soviet Republics", Praeger/Greenwood, 1995, ISBN 0275951928, p. 150] [cite web |last= |first= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Country Studies/Azerbaijan/The Foreign Policy Establishment |work= |publisher=http://countrystudies.us|date= |url=http://countrystudies.us/azerbaijan/36.htm |format= |doi= |accessdate=2008-01-18] .

After the rise of Popular Front of Azerbaijan to power in June 1992, the newly-elected President Abulfaz Elchibey endorsed the unification of the Azerbaijani populations of his country and Iranian Azerbaijan, and to that end, to that end, autonomy for the Iranian Azerbaijanis, a stance which alienated the Iranian government [http://countrystudies.us/azerbaijan/36.htm Foreign Relations of Azerbaijan] ] .

According to Svante Cornell [http://books.google.com/books?id=ff2zOZYaZx0C&pg=PA324&ots=dOgQbe7YnO&dq=elchibey+iran&sig=z62xtXL6XNC5EGGUnndxYlKKxZM Svante Cornell, "Small nations and great powers: A Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict in the Caucasus", Richmond : Curzon Press, 2001, pp. 324-345.] ] :

He also states [ [http://www.cornellcaspian.com/pub2/0411IRAN.pdf Svante Cornell. Iranian Azerbaijan: A Brewing Hotspot] ] :

cquote|Religious and ethnic Azerbaijani forces advocated support to the brethren in Azerbaijan against the Armenian infidel. Meanwhile, the foreign policy establishment saw the weakening of the republic of Azerbaijan as concomitant to Iranian national interest, and therefore pursued a policy of tacit support for Armenia in the conflict. Whereas Iranian vacillation and hesitation in the first years of the 1990s can be ascribed to these internal divisions, the general direction of Tehran’s policy soon became clear. With the exception of instances where it became necessary to restore a balance by preventing Armenia from turning the region into chaos (since too much suffering and chaos in Azerbaijan would risk arousing Iranian public opinion) Tehran used the conflict to pressure Baku. Iran served as Armenia’s main purveyor of electricity and goods, and after the Armenian conquest of Nagorno-Karabakh, Iranian trucks have been supplying most of the secessionist enclave’s needs. The decisive factor tilting Tehran towards Yerevan was nevertheless the policies of the Popular Front government in Baku...Led by President Abulfaz Elcibey the Popular Front government gradually developed a vehemently anti-Russian and anti-Iranian policy..

Ironically, Elchibey was against the break up of his own nation based on ethnic lines, stating "Armenians have been living in Azerbaijan for centuries, and as full citizens of the state - just like the Kurds, Lezgins, Tats, and Talyish...let them continue to live here as equal citizens before the law - but they must obey the laws of the state, no country would demand any less." [Goltz, Thomas. "Azerbaijan Diary". M.E. Sharpe. Published in 1998, page 63] He also denounced Iran's peace efforts during the Nargorno-Karabakh conflict, claiming Iran was attempting to give Armenia the advantage. However, during Nagorno-Karabakh War, Iran pressured Armenia and Karabakh Armenians to halt the offensive. Veiled threats first appeared in the English-language "Kayhan International":

This statement was followed by official warnings from the Iranian Foreign Ministry, accompanied by military reinforcements along Iran's borders with Azerbaijan and Armenia ["Сосредоточение войск на ирано-азербайджанской границе вызывает тревогу", Izvestia, Moscow, September 4, 1993, p. 2] . Iran also gave financial aid to Nakhchivan and pressured Armenia to refrain from attacking the enclaveS. Cornell, "Small nations and great powers: A Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict in the Caucasus", Richmond : Curzon Press, 2001, p. 325] .

In 1992, Elchibey, during a visit to Turkey, described himself as a soldier of Ataturk and called for the downfall of Iran, which prompted a member of the Iranian parliament to threaten retaliation. [Alaolmolki, Nozar. "Life After the Soviet Union". published in 2001 page 50.]

Since then however, the two nations have had relatively good relations, although tensions have sometimes been high, cooperating in many different areas including trade, security, and the energy sector. However, some tensions include the growing relationship between the United States, Israel, and Azerbaijan, Caspian Sea territorial issues, and Irans support for Armenia. President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan had said that he did not support a United States attack against Iran [ [http://www.axisglobe.com/news.asp?news=2147 Axis News - News ] ] . Novruz Mamedov, Azerbaijani presidential international affairs department head in 2005, has also said that Azerbaijan would not allow the United States to build bases within Azerbaijani territory and would not help in an attack against Iran. [ [http://www.axisglobe.com/news.asp?news=1629 Axis News - News ] ]

There were incidents involving of the use of force or its demonstration on the part of Iranian military forces. On July 23, 2001, an Iranian warship and two jets forced a research vessel working on behalf of British Petroleum (BP)-Amoco in the Araz-Alov-Sharg field in sector of the Caspian Sea which is claimed by Iran [ [http://www.heritage.org/Research/MiddleEast/bg1582.cfm Iran's Claim Over Caspian Sea Resources Threaten Energy Security] ] . On February 22, 2007 Azerbaijani media outlets reported that Iranian helicopters had violated the air space of Azerbaijan by flying over the southern town of Astara for over 20 minutes. Reportedly, the flight took place right over the city administration building and caused considerable panic among the local residents. [Jamestown, Eurasia Monitor, March 2, 2007] But for the most part Azerbaijan and Iran avoided any serious military clashes. In May 2005 Baku and Tehran signed a non-aggression pact barring third countries from using their territories for offensive operations against each other.

In March 2006, during the World Congress of Azerbaijanis convention in Baku, a number of participants addressed both the concept of a "unified Azerbaijan" and "human rights abuses" against Azeris in Iran. A diplomatic controversy erupted when Iran's ambassador to Azerbaijan, Afshar Suleymani, an Azeri himself, expressed indignation concerning the views of some speakers who advocated the union of "southern" and "northern" Azerbaijan. Certain anti-Iran claims during an official seminar in Baku were harmful to relations between the two countries and were especially against the interests of the Republic of Azerbaijan. [ [http://www.turkishweekly.net/news.php?id=28239 JTW News - Azeri thinker denounces anti-Iran statements at Azeri seminar Baku ] ]

According to Karl Rahder, "Most analysts agree that the Iranian government has attempted to infiltrate Azerbaijan with agents and fifth column sleeper cells to weaken Azerbaijan from within for many years." [ [http://www.isn.ethz.ch/news/sw/details_print.cfm?id=17508 Karl Rahder. The Southern Azerbaijan problem, ISN Security Watch, 19/04/07] ] Opposite views stress on Azerbaijan’s territorial claims over Iran [ [http://www.regnum.ru/english/polit/642056.html"Azerbaijan to receive part of Iran, and Armenia – Nagorno Karabakh?" ] ] [ [http://www.regnum.ru/english/641581.html Baku has unofficially agreed to take part in anti-Iranian coalition] ]

President Ilham Aliyev's attitude of calling Iranian Azeri's as "Azerbaijanis who live in Iran" [http://www.cfr.org/publication/10547/conversation_with_ilham_aliyev_rush_transcript_federal_news_service_inc.html "QUESTIONER: Hasan Hazar, Turkish daily Turkiye. Mr. President, you know, there are more than 20 million Azeris living in Iran. So my question is about that. What is Azerbaijan’s policy toward south Azerbaijan?ALIYEV: Azerbaijanis live in many countries. Recently we had the Second Congress of World Azerbaijanis. And according to our estimations, there are more than 50 million Azerbaijanis who live around the world, and about 30 million of them live in Iran.And of course all of them—their destiny for us is very important. When I visit other countries, I always meet representatives of the Azerbaijani community, because really Azerbaijanis live, as I mentioned, in many countries. We try to be helpful to their needs. We try to maintain good relations with the countries where Azerbaijanis live, so that their lives become better."] [http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/11/0f418e0f-3f21-4ae3-8f3e-bceeb1c4be40.html Aliyev told EU officials today that Baku is unhappy that the Azeri language is banned from schools and the media in Iran.] has angered some in the Iranian Azeri community. The last time that a minister of the Azerbaijan republic referred to Iranian Azeri's in that manner, the representative of Ardabil province in the Iranian parliament protested.Fact|date=June 2007

Nevertheless, the relations between the two republics are once again developing.

On December 20, 2005 Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attended the opening ceremony of a new gas pipeline from Iran to Azerbaijan's landlocked Nakhchivan Autonomous Region, which is separated from the mainland of Azerbaijan by a strip of Armenian territory. Nakhchivan has been cut off from gas supplies as a result of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. Under a 25-year swap contract signed between the two countries in August 2004, the new pipeline will supply the region with Iranian natural gas. Azerbaijan will also deliver its gas to Iran's northeastern provinces. The volume of gas imports to Nakhchivan is expected to reach 250 million cubic meters in 2006 and 350 million cubic meters in 2007.

On February 3, 2007 Azerbaijan’s minister of communications and information technology, Ali Abbasov, and the head of the Iranian State Broadcasting Agency, Ezzatollah Zarghami, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on bilateral media cooperation. Previously, Azerbaijan urged Iran to cease its "broadcasting and unauthorized transmission of Iranian Sahar-2 television into Azerbaijan" and "criticized the Azeri-language broadcasts beamed into southern Azerbaijan for containing "anti-Azerbaijani propaganda" aimed at destabilizing the southern regions of the country, and faulted the Iranian government for "interference in Azerbaijan's internal affairs. Iranian officials have claimed that the broadcasts are beyond their control, as Sahar-2 is a privately owned station and merely expresses "its own position" in its programs" [ [http://www.hri.org/news/balkans/rferl/2003/03-10-27.rferl.html#23 AZERBAIJANI FOREIGN MINISTER URGES IRAN TO END BROADCASTS INTO SOUTHERN AZERBAIJAN, Radio Free Liberty, 2003-10-27] ]

On March 19, 2007, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran joined President Robert Kocharyan of Armenia to inaugurate a gas pipeline to pump Iranian natural gas to Armenia. [ [http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2007/3/5030F364-4B10-4C18-9C39-076C11C7F742.html RFE/RL Newsline: "Iranian, Armenian Presidents Inaugurate Gas Pipeline", March 19, 2007] ] Armenia is Azerbaijan's arch-foe. Likewise, in a Washington Institute for Near East Policy analysis, analysts Soner Cagaptay and Alexander Murinson alluded to reports that Israeli intelligence maintains listening posts along the Azerbaijani border with Iran. [http://www.meforum.org/article/987 Israel and Azerbaijan's Furtive Embrace]

On the 12th of April 2007, Azerbaijan handed Hadi Sid Javad Musavi, an Iranian citizen affiliated with the Southern Azerbaijan National Awakening Movement, to the Iranian authorities.

In October 2007, according Human Rights Watch, an eight-and-a-half-year prison sentence handed down to Eynulla Fatullayev, editor of Azerbaijan’s two largest independent newspapers, for terrorism and other charges. The terrorism and inciting ethnic hatred charges derive from an article Fatullayev wrote in Realni Azerbaijan, in which he argued that the government’s support of the United States’ position on Iran makes Azerbaijan vulnerable to attack from Iran, and he speculated on likely targets of such an attack. [cite web |last= |first= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Azerbaijan: Outspoken Editor Sentenced to Eight Years and Six Months, Unrelenting Crackdown on Media in Azerbaijan Intensifies |work= |publisher=http://hrw.org/|date= |url=http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/10/30/azerba17204.htm |format= |doi= |accessdate=2008-01-18]

In December 2007, Court consideration on the cases of Novruzeli Mammadov, Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences Linguistics department chief, editor-in-chief of” Tolishi sedo” newspaper and Elman Guliyev, official of Linguistics Institute was started in the Court of Grave Crimes. The two were accused receiving 1000 US dollars funds from Talish organizations in Iran after their newspaper published articles showing well known Persian poet Nezami and Iranian historical hero Babak Khoramdin as Talysh. [cite web |last= |first= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Editors of "Tolishi sedo" newspaper took stand of betrayal of country |work= |publisher=http://www.anspress.com/|date= |url=http://www.anspress.com/nid51166.html |format= |doi= |accessdate=2008-01-18] Also in another incident in December 2007, the Court for Grave Crimes on sentenced 15 members of so called Said group and its alleged leader, Said Dadashbeyli to lengthy prison sentences convicting them of treason and passing information on Israeli, U.S., and British activities in Azerbaijan Republic to Iranian intelligence. Iranian government summoned the Azeri ambassador to Tehran in protest to the claims and called them "baseless" accusations. [cite web |last= |first= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Iran protests to Azerbaijan over spy trial|work= |publisher=Agence France Presse (AFP)|date= |url=http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5iz8pFUWZHZpfhLWbi1M6ZovTxGMg |format= |doi= |accessdate=2008-01-18]

See also

The cover of a 5th grade history book from Azerbaijan entitled "Fatherland" shows most of northwestern Iran (including Lake Urmia) and significant portions of Armenia (including all of Lake Sevan) and Georgia (Kvemo Kartli and southern Kakheti) as a part of Azerbaijani territory, covered by a modern flag of the Republic of Azerbaijan: [http://www.mehrnews.com/fa/NewsDetail.aspx?NewsID=327481 AtaYordu]

References


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