President Ilham Aliyev has rejected Iranian claims regarding an Israeli presence in Azerbaijan’s newly liberated territories adjacent to the border with Tehran, in an interview cited by Trend News Agency on Wednesday.
“First, we reject all the accusations about Azerbaijan bringing Israel to liberated territories [in Karabakh]. That is absolute nonsense. It is just a pretext aimed at the domestic audience in order to demonize Azerbaijan,” the president said during an interview with Italian newspaper la Repubblica on Oct. 7.
“Everybody can go and see that there is no life there. Everything is destroyed. Second, that we demand respect, the same respect that we show others,” he added.
Baku and Tehran have recently traded barbs over the alleged presence of “third-party” forces presumed to be Israel near the border with Iran, which has been categorically denied by Azerbaijan, amid a reported military build-up on the Iranian side.
“There have never been, and never will be, third-party forces on the state border of Azerbaijan. Rumors that Azerbaijan is using its territories for intelligence purposes against Iran and that representatives of a religious extremist movement are active there is false,” a Monday statement by the State Border Service of Azerbaijan said.
Aliyev warns Iran to halt illegal truck entry into Karabakh
Aliyev also issued a stern warning to Iran to stop what he called an “assault” against Azerbaijani borders, after Tehran increased the number of trucks dispatched through Baku’s territories.
“So, our message was very simple: stop. There is no way to cheat, no way to say that it’s not happening. Unfortunately, this warning was not adequately heeded, then, we had to take a second step. We issued a diplomatic note. We invited the ambassador and made it public, in order for it to stop. But actually, it became even worse. The number of trucks from Iran to Karabakh increased and we considered it as an assault, as a deliberate disrespect,” Aliyev continued.
Around 60 Iranian trucks entered Azerbaijan’s Karabakh region without permission between Aug. 11 and Sept. 11 this year after Azerbaijan called on Iran to put an end to the practice, he said.
Aliyev went on to reiterate that Baku wants to have friendly relations with all countries, and most of all, with its neighbors.