Baku frees Iranian truck drivers as ties with Tehran thaw – region – world
File photo: Armored vehicles take part in a military exercise on the borders with Azerbaijan and Armenia. PA
The move marks a thaw between Azerbaijan and Iran a week after their foreign ministers agreed to resolve a crisis in relations through dialogue.
The Azerbaijani customs service said Thursday it handed over the drivers to the Iranian side in a decision “guided by principles of humanitarianism, mutual respect and good neighborliness.”
The stalemate between the countries was sparked by claims by Tehran that its arch-enemy Israel maintained a military presence in Azerbaijan. Baku has denied the allegations.
Iran has pledged to take all necessary measures and has organized military exercises near its border with Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov spoke by phone last week with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and the two men agreed to resolve their differences through dialogue.
Israel is a major arms supplier to Azerbaijan, which at the end of last year won a six-week war with neighbor Armenia over control of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Azerbaijan and Iran have long been at loggerheads over Tehran’s support for Armenia in the decades-long Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Last year’s war ended with a Russian-brokered ceasefire that saw Armenia cede swathes of territory – including a 700-kilometer (430-mile) border section of the ‘Azerbaijan with Iran.
Baku said the drivers entered Azerbaijan through that territory, bypassing border controls to avoid tariffs it had recently imposed – much to Iran’s fury over the transit of goods to Armenia.
Tehran has long been suspicious of separatist sentiment from its ethnic Azeri minority, which represents around 10 million of Iran’s 83 million people.