Iranian Defense Minister Visits Baku For Security Talks

BAKU (RFE/RL)–Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi was in Baku earlier this week on a two-day visit to discuss expanding bilateral military cooperation and regional security, RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service reported Monday.

Vahidi told journalists on Monday at the Baku airport that his meetings with Azerbaijani officials will be beneficial for both countries and for the region. He said he will also discuss Caspian Sea-region security and stability issues with Azerbaijani officials.

Azerbaijani Defense Minister Safar Abiyev told Vahidi that Baku wants stability in the region and blamed Armenia, which he described as an aggressor state, for undermining regional peace, the Defense Ministry’s press service reported.

“Some states have not recognized Armenia as an aggressor state. They render economic and military assistance to the aggressor while declaring Azerbaijan a friendly and brotherly country,” Abiyev said.

Iran has political and economic ties with both Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Some analysts say Iran wants to use the Qabala radar station, which Azerbaijan currently leases to Russia.

Azerbaijani military expert Uzeyir Cafarov told RFE/RL that Iran is concerned with its own security.

“Iran is concerned that U.S. soldiers could come to the region and create a threat to Iran. But Azerbaijan has its own interests, and the final decisions [regarding Qabala] will become known early next year,” Cafarov said.

Niyaz Yaqublu, who heads a Baku think tank, says Iran is taking diplomatic steps in the South Caucasus because it fears international sanctions. “But Iran has not changed its basic attitude toward Azerbaijan; this country’s political existence and economic development are not advantageous for Iran,” he said.

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmedinejad and parliament speaker Ali Larijani — who was on a visit to Armenia at the same time — are scheduled to visit Baku in November.

Iran canceled its visa requirement for Azerbaijanis early this year, but Azerbaijan has not reciprocated as it fears an influx of migrants from Iran.

An estimated 15 to 25 percent of Iran’s population of some 74 million people are ethnic Azeris.

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