Iranian President on Baku Visit

(BBC)–Iran’s President Mohammad Khatami has arrived in Azerbaijan’s capital–Baku–for a two-day visit with Azeri counterpart Ilham Aliyev.

The two will hold talks on Tehran-Baku relations–as well as cooperation at the regional and international levels–and are expected to sign a string of bilateral agreemen’s aimed at bolstering economic–educational–and cultural co-operation between the two states.

This is President Khatami’s first ever visit to Azerbaijan–Iran’s crucial strategic neighbor.

The most important issues on the agenda will be regional security and disputed territorial rights over the oil-rich landlocked Caspian Sea.

Although Azerbaijan and Iran’s shared border runs across important oil reserves–the two countries share more than just a frontier.

Nearly 20% of Iran’s population are ethnic Azeris and Shia Islam is the dominant religion in both countries. Nevertheless–past relations have been frosty.

Tehran has expressed concern over Baku’s pro-Western stance–with Azerbaijan America’s ally in the "war on terror" and Washington backing the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline project in the region.

For its part–Baku is worried about the possible spread of Islamic fundamentalism in Azerbaijan.

Thus–few expect President Khatami’s visit to bring major changes–although analysts say any co-operation with Iran is important for the security of this extremely fragile region.

The two presidents are expected to issue separate joint statemen’s on political issues and that of the Caspian Sea at the end of their meeting to be held later on in the day.


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