Iran, Azerbaijan warm up ties after years of frost

Al Monitor | : The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 was followed by the independence of several states in the Caucasus, including the Republic of Azerbaijan. While the newfound Azerbaijani state has not enjoyed warm ties with Iran, this trend appears to be changing as the two countries move closer to one another.

The absence of close ties between Tehran and Baku is believed to be rooted in several factors, the most important being Azerbaijan’s preference for closer relations with Turkey rather than with Iran. In turn, the Islamic Republic has opted for warmer ties with Christian Armenia rather than with Shiite Azerbaijan.

The status of the mountainous region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which has long been the subject of an unresolved dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia, is another factor that has impacted Baku’s relations with other countries. While Azerbaijan counted on Iran’s full support in the dispute, Tehran chose a milder approach and instead invited the disputing parties to engage in dialogue and find a peaceful solution to the crisis — a stance that seemed to be in favor of Armenia.

Nonetheless, there are strong foundations for close ties. For instance, considering that the territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan was once a part of Iran, there has long been a sense of closeness among its population and that of Iranian Azeris, and particularly in the Iranian provinces of East Azerbaijan and West Azerbaijan. Following the first Russo-Persian War in 1813 and the defeat of the Qajars, Iran was forced to cede what is now known as Azerbaijan to Imperial Russia under the terms of the Gulistan treaty. Yet there are still close ties between Azeris on both sides of the border due to their shared history, culture and language.

 

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