Iran-Azerbaijan: neighbours, partners, foes?
    Expert opinion on Caliber.Az

    INTERVIEWS  11 September 2023 - 15:23

    Samir Ibrahimov

    Azerbaijan receives positive messages from Iran on the issue of normalisation of relations between the two countries, Azerbaijani presidential aide Hikmat Hajiyev has said in an interview with the Israeli international TV channel i24News.

    According to him, Iran is a neighbour and Azerbaijan needs to have good relations with all neighbours. The country's policy is to maintain stable and mutually beneficial relations with all the countries it borders.

    "There has been confusion and certain misunderstandings between Iran and Azerbaijan. But using diplomatic channels and dialogue, we are trying to solve this, and we are also receiving positive signals from the Iranian side," he said.

    The presidential aide stressed that Azerbaijan continues diplomatic contacts with its Iranian counterparts to turn the page "and create a much more favourable atmosphere for cooperation and dialogue in the region as a whole, as well as in bilateral cooperation between Iran and Azerbaijan".

    Not long before, Tehran said it supported the resumption of the Iran-Azerbaijan-Türkiye format. Iranian Foreign Minister Hosein Amir Abdollahian said this at a press conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan in Tehran on September 3.

    What is happening to Tehran's foreign policy towards Azerbaijan? It’s been quite a while since we’ve heard blatant anti-Azerbaijani rhetoric from Tehran. And now there are statements about readiness to fully normalise relations. How sincere can they be? Has Iran realised that spoiled ties with Azerbaijan are not beneficial for it?

    Iliya Kusa, an expert on the Middle East region, and analyst of the Ukrainian Institute for the Future, shared his view on this situation with Caliber.Az.

    He believes that in general the logic of normalisation is understandable as the same logic is manifested in Iran's foreign policy in its relations with Saudi Arabia

    .

    "That is, in general, it is certainly more beneficial for Iran to avoid creating problems and getting involved in conflicts, especially armed ones, with neighbouring countries, with any states, because this diverts resources from the already difficult economic situation inside the country. Iran as a whole over the last couple of years has shown a willingness to focus on domestic economic development, which has deteriorated due to sanctions and other problems. We saw this with last year's protests. Thus, Iran needs normalisation," Kusa says.

    Another issue is that, of course, normalisation of relations with other countries always faces political opposition from some elites, he said.

    "Inside Iran, not everyone may agree with this, not all the time this idea is popular. For example, in particular in relations with Azerbaijan, it is clear that on the one hand, normalisation is actually in the interest of both states. Because both countries generally do not want to go to war with each other for obvious reasons, it would bring costs, which both sides objectively would like to avoid.

    On the other hand, there are political disputes between these two states, there are issues of interests that affect the regional situation. For example, with what is happening around Armenia. The desire for normalisation sometimes encounters certain geopolitical thinking of Iranian rulers, who do not want, say, Türkiye to increase its presence in the South Caucasus or near Iran's borders as a result," the expert says.

    In addition, specifically with regard to Azerbaijan, it is no secret that Iran is dissatisfied with its rapprochement with Israel, especially in the military-technical sphere, and this is also an additional factor of tension in bilateral relations, Kusa underlined.

    "So, I think Iran has the same logic with Azerbaijan as it does with Saudi Arabia. That is, in general, an attempt to balance between normal, predictable, controlled relations and, of course, their geopolitical interests, which both countries have and which they cannot ignore.

    Therefore, I think that it is too early to assess all these statements as an accomplished fact of normalisation, because there have been no practical actions yet, plus now the situation between Armenia and Azerbaijan is escalating, and accordingly Iran will have to react here too, and most likely it will side with Yerevan.

    Therefore, it is too early to say that relations between Azerbaijan and Iran will somehow improve or are improving - we have to wait, I think, for some more time," the regional expert concluded.

    Caliber.Az

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