Tension between Iran and Azerbaijan heightened Tuesday as Baku shut down an Iranian mosque and Tehran barred Azerbaijani military flights over its territory.
Facing his first crisis in office, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Iran’s foreign minister who met his Armenian counterpart Ararat Mirzoyan in Tehran Monday, arrived in Moscow Tuesday. A joint news conference with Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s veteran foreign minister, is scheduled for Wednesday morning.
Kazem Jalali, Iran's ambassador to Moscow, said Wednesday that the meeting had gained importance with developments in the Caucasus and in Afghanistan. Azerbaijan, Turkey and Pakistan continued trilateral military drills dubbed “Indestructible Brotherhood 2021" in the NAR Tuesday near the Iran border.
Moscow brokered an uneasy agreement ending last year’s six-week war between Azerbaijan and Armenia, when the Azeris reclaimed the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. The situation has since simmered, with occasional violence, and have centered of late on a stretch of road linking Iran and Armeniaoccupied by Azerbaijani troops.
Several Azerbaijani news agencies reported that Iran on Tuesday informed Azerbaijan that it had closed Iranian airspace to Azerbaijani aircraft carrying military supplies to the Azeri enclave ‘Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic,’ bordered by Armenia and by Iran to its south.
The move angered Baku, which called it an act dictated by Armenia. The defense ministry issued a statement calling the decision a betrayalthat led it to draw “unambiguous conclusions” about Iranian foreign policy.
The statement denied Iran’s move would “cause substantial harm to Azerbaijan.” Without access to Iranian airspace, Baku would need to supply the NAR by a roundabout route through Georgia and Turkey.
The Iranian Embassy in Baku in a statement Tuesday said Azerbaijani police inspected the Iranian mosque known as Iranian Husseiniya in Baku and shut it down.
Ehsan Zahidov,spokesman for the Azeri interior ministry, told the Qafqazinfo news-site that Covid infection had risen in recent days in several places in Baku, including the mosque. Zahidov said other places have been shut down for the same reason to allow preventative action.
The mosque is affiliated to the Iranian embassy and houses the office of Ali-Akbar Ojaghnejad, representative in Azerbaijan of Iranian leader Ali Khamenei. Ojaghnejad holds daily prayers at the mosque. The Iranian envoy, Seyed-Abbas Mousavi, later said that the closure had not affected Ojaghnejad’s work, which is conducted in the same building.
The Iranian embassy in Baku was attacked by Azerbaijani protesters last Thursday evening. Mousavi said Friday he had strongly protested over "disrespect and aggression” and that four perpetrators had been detained.