Azerbaijan has lashed out at one of Iran’s top military leaders, accusing him of making “vile defamatory and slanderous statements,” after he claimed that there are “Zionist elements” in Azerbaijan amid increased political tensions.
The commander of the Iranian Army's Ground Forces, Kiomart Heydari, has identified several sensitive issues in the Caucasus region.
One of them concerns the presence of "Zionist regime" elements within the country's borders, which Iran does not tolerate and will resist.… pic.twitter.com/NVCasDW8J1
— 301 Military (@301military) March 30, 2023
Earlier today, Brigadier General Kioumars Heydari, commander of Iran’s Ground Force, accused Azerbaijan of hosting “Zionist elements” in its country, which he said posed a security threat for the region.
Heydari told ParsToday that “There are very sensitive issues in the Caucasus. One of them is the presence of elements of the Zionist regime [Israel] on the borders of this country. Iran will not tolerate the presence of Zionist elements in the countries of the region and will resist it.”
Iran has always seen Azerbaijan’s relationship with Israel as a security threat, fearing Israeli elements could operate in the country as the two share a border. Over the past several years, Azerbaijan has been one of Israel’s top oil providers. Meanwhile, Israel has been a main weapons exporter to Azerbaijan, playing a major role in their military operations during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war by providing them nearly 70% of their heavy weapons, along with kinetic and ISR drone capabilities. Tensions continued to rise as Azerbaijan announced the opening of an embassy in Tel Aviv, further pledging increased diplomatic, economic, and military support.
— FRANCE 24 English (@France24_en) October 26, 2020
Hedari also went on to claim that Turkish-backed rebel elements from Syria that participated in the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war in support of Azerbaijan have not left. It is to be noted that Turkey, a key allie with Azerbaijan, and its rebel proxies oppose the Assad government, which is allied with Iran and its proxy militias.
Hedari also added that “The third problem is the illegality of national border changes in the region. Iran respects the borders of neighboring countries and will not allow them to change,” which is likely in reference to small land grabs Azeri forces have carried out since the end of the war.
INFORMATION OF THE #AZERBAIJANDEFENSEMINISTRY
— Azerbaijan MOD (@wwwmodgovaz) March 30, 2023
Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defense denounced Hedari’s statements, calling them “absurd thoughts” and “vile defamatory and slanderous statements regarding Azerbaijan.”
In an official statement, the Ministry said that “First of all, we declare that the Iranian side’s accusations about the presence of any foreign forces in the territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan are unfounded and completely unacceptable. In general, there are no extraneous forces in the territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan.”
“We would like to remind K. Heydari that Armenia had been keeping the Azerbaijani lands under occupation for 30 years. As a result of this military aggression, a 132-kilometer section of the Azerbaijani-Iranian state border had also been occupied. However, the Iranian side had never made compromising statements about Armenia. On the contrary, the Iranian-Armenian brotherhood strengthened during this period. And today it is no secret to anyone that if Armenia has two main allies in the world, France is one of them, and Iran is the other.”
MoD of #Azerbaijan: The accusation of the Iranian side about the presence of any foreign forces in the territory of Azerbaijan is groundless & completely unacceptable.
— Ali Alizada ?? (@Ali_F_Alizada) March 30, 2023
“The Republic of Azerbaijan supports the territorial integrity of all the countries and does not interfere in the internal affairs of other states.”
In regards to claims that rebel elements remain in Azerbaijan, the Ministry stated “This claim is nothing more than an absurd accusation and slander. It is ironic and ridiculous that this accusation was made by a high-ranking military officer of a state that supports terrorism and whose name is known for committing terrorist acts in various countries around the world.”