Asked by reporters about the recent remarks made by President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev on Iran, Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Tuesday that it was surprising that the Azerbaijani leader made such remarks while the two neighbors have “good and respectful” relationships and interaction between Tehran and Baku is at the highest level in everyday life.
His comments came after Aliyev said he was “very surprised” by Iran’s decision to hold military exercises near the shared border.
In an interview published on Monday with the Turkish agency Anadolu, the Azerbaijani president said: “Why now and why near our borders?”
Aliyev said Iran has not held any military exercises near the border since Azerbaijan gained independence from the former Soviet Union almost 30 years ago.
In response, Khatibzadeh said the decision to hold a war game in Iran’s northwestern border areas was a matter of the country’s sovereignty.
“Of course, it is obvious that the Islamic Republic of Iran would not even tolerate the theatrical presence of the Zionist regime near its borders and in this regard will take all necessary measures to (protect) its national security,” the spokesman added.
He noted that the Foreign Ministers of Iran and the Republic of Azerbaijan had “serious and precise consultations” on various subjects on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York and agreed that the bilateral talks would continue as appropriate.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran has always spoken out against any occupation of territories and has stressed the need to respect the territorial integrity of the countries and internationally recognized borders,” said Khatibzadeh.
He added that all of Iran’s neighbors are expected to adhere to the principles of good neighborliness.
In recent weeks, Azerbaijani police and customs have begun imposing a “road tax” on Iranian trucks transporting fuel and other goods to neighboring Armenia, creating a tense atmosphere in relations between Tehran and Baku.
Aliyev alleged that Iran had for years ignored Azerbaijan’s demands to stop moving goods to Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian enclave internationally recognized as Azerbaijani territory. He said no Iranian truck has entered Nagorno-Karabakh since Azerbaijan began collecting the tax.