TEHRAN (RFE/RL)—Iran has repeatedly refused to sell long-range missiles to Azerbaijan, a pro-government Azerbaijani lawmaker said late on Tuesday as he dismissed Iranian criticism of his country’s close ties with Israel.
“Israel plays an important role in creating Azerbaijan’s defense industry and providing it with modern weapons, whereas Iran has responded negatively to Azerbaijan’s repeated requests for the sale of long-range missiles,” Elman Nasirov told the APA news agency.
“Azerbaijan’s close ties with Israel can serve as a model for other Muslim countries,” he said. “They have a bilateral character and do not harm ties with other states.”
Nasirov, who also runs a state think-tank in Azerbaijan, did not specify the type of Iranian missiles that were sought by Baku.
The Azerbaijani government seems keen to offset the recent acquisition by Armenia of sophisticated Russian Iskander missiles. The missiles have significantly strengthened Yerevan’s ability to strike oil and gas installations and other strategic targets in Azerbaijan in the event of a renewed war for Karabakh.
Nasirov’s comments came in response to Iranian officials’ angry reaction to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s recent visit to Azerbaijan.
An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman reportedly said on Monday that the Azerbaijani government should not have hosted Netanyahu. He accused Israel of seeking to “spread discord” among Islamic states.
Iranian officials have also criticized Azerbaijani-Israeli intergovernmental contacts in the past. Azerbaijani pro-government politicians dismissed the criticism, pointing to Iran’s close rapport with Armenia.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani underscored those ties with his official visit to Yerevan on Wednesday. He called for a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
News reports quoted Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev as saying after his December 13 talks with Netanyahu that Azerbaijan has signed about $5 billion worth of defense contracts with Israel over the past decade. The Azerbaijani army used some of its Israeli-made weapons, notably attack drones, during the April 2016 fighting in Karabakh.