Iran’s foreign ministry on Tuesday responded to Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev who voiced discontent with Tehran’s decision to hold exercises near its border and questioned the timing of the drills hinting that it may be in response to Baku’s actions toward Iranian truck drivers who are traveling to Armenia.
In an interview with the Turkish Anadolu news agency, Aliyev voiced concern about military drills being held in southwestern Iran, along Azerbaijan’s border.
“Such a thing has not happened in the 30 years of our independence,” said Aliyev who added that every country has a right to hold military drills as its sovereign right.
“But when we analyze it within the timeline, we see that such a thing has never happened. Why right now? Why right on our border?,” pondered Aliyev who was quick to say that Tehran was reacting emotionally to Azerbaijan’s decision to impose a “road tax” on Iranian truck drivers on the Armenia-Iran interstate highway.
Azerbaijani forces, last week, began stopping Iranian trucks on the Goris-Kapan highway and imposing taxes of the truck drivers, whose transport of cargo to Armenia has been delayed, posing challenges for Iran-Armenia trade.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Tuesday that the military drills held in northwest of Iran were a sovereignty issue and were held to fortify peace and stability in the region, the state IRNA news agency reported.
Khatibzadeh said Aliyev’s remarks were perplexing given the fact that the foreign ministers of the two countries met last week on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly and discussed those issues during the meeting.
Khatibzadeh went on to say that Iran has always rejected any type of territorial occupation and emphasized the need for respecting territorial integrity of countries and internationally recognized borders.
The foreign ministry spokesperson said that Iran expects its neighbors to observe the principle of advancing neighborly relations, which Tehran considers a priority.
Khatibzadeh explained that the border drills were designed to ensure Iran’s border security in the event of a potential Israeli attack.