BAKU (RFE/RL)–Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called Azerbaijan a “brotherly” neighbor but was careful not to publicly take sides in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict after talks with his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev in Baku late on Wednesday.
“We will stand by Azerbaijan in all international organizations and in the international arena,” Ahmadinejad said, according to news reports from Baku. “We are two brotherly states. This brotherhood will continue, it will gradually strengthen and deepen.”
Turning to the Karabakh conflict, he called for its peaceful and “just” resolution. “We are ready to make our utmost contribution to a quick resolution of that problem by means of negotiations, on a just basis and within the framework of international law,” he told a joint news conference with Aliyev.
According to Regnum, Ahmadinejad skirted Azerbaijani journalists’ persistent questions about Iran’s close political and economic ties with Armenia and international Muslim solidarity championed by Tehran. “I’m not going to say what you want to hear from me,” the Russian news agency quoted him as saying.
The Islamic Republic has signed up to Azerbaijani-drafted resolutions by Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) accusing Armenia of unleashing aggression against Azerbaijan. It most recently did so at a September meeting in New York of the foreign ministers of OIC member states.
Nevertheless, that has not kept Tehran from developing a warm rapport with Yerevan. The two neighboring states plan to cement that relationship further with more joint multimillion-dollar commercial projects to be launched soon. Ahmadinejad has repeatedly called for their speedy implementation.
Azerbaijani politicians and pundits have long accused the Iranian leadership of hypocrisy. The Azerbaijani government, however, has avoided echoing such accusations or publicly demanding that Iran join in Azerbaijan’s and Turkey’s long-running economic blockade of Armenia.
Aliyev referred to Ahmadinejad as a “brother” and said Azerbaijani-Iranian relations are currently “at the highest level.” “We are consistently taking practical steps to raise that level,” he said, according to the official Azertag agency.
Aliyev added that he briefed the Iranian leader on the status of the Karabakh peace process. “I hope that Azerbaijan will restore its territorial integrity,” he told journalists. “To that end, we must get even stronger. There has been an exchange of opinions on that today.”