Azerbaijan on Thursday confirmed the release of two Iranian truck drivers it arrested last month on a transit road it captured from Armenia last year.
Nour News, a website close to Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani, reported Thursday morning that the two truck drivers had been handed over to the Iranian embassy in Baku and were preparing to leave the country.
Reflecting eased tensions between the two countries, Azerbaijan said its decision to free the drivers was "guided by principles of humanitarianism, mutual respect, and good neighborliness."
The move followed a phone-call between Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and his Azeri counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov October 13 during which the two sides agreed to put a stop to "harmful rhetoric" and resolve problems through dialogue.
Iran’s Roads and Transportation Agency ordered transport companies Wednesday to "comply with the laws" and "take the sensitivities of [Azerbaijan] into consideration” given its acquisition of territory from Armenia during the 44-day Nagorno-Karabakh conflict of 2020. This, the agency said, would require Iranian drivers to avoid the Armenian-populated Karabakh enclave of Azerbaijan when travelling through Armenia.
Nour News on Wednesday said "lack of due diligence of some private transportation companies" had given "certain anti-Iranian factions” in Azerbaijan “an excuse" against Iran and had led to Baku making "verbal challenges…[that] are not in either country's interests."
Nour News welcomed the communique from the Roads and Transportation Agency, which it said would “block the path to any squabbles by those opposed to [good] relations between the two countries and certain third parties while illustrating Iran's official and constant stance of respect for the territorial integrity of the Republic of Azerbaijan.”
Baku restricted Iranian access to Armenia along roads it captured from Armenian forces last year, but Iran-Azerbaijan relations have been remained strained since the war when Tehran was alarmed by reports of Turkey deploying militant Sunni fighters recruited in Syria to join Azerbaijani forces. Tehran has been long been concerned over Azerbaijan’s relationship with Israel, an oil customer, and reports that Baku has allowed Israeli access to its airspace.
After the arrest of the two Iranian truck drivers, officials and media in both countries ramped up critical rhetoric. Iran held extensive military drills near the border area after military drills between Turkey, Azerbaijan and Pakistan.