Iran hosts border war games amid tense relations with Azerbaijan


DUBAI, Oct. 1 (Reuters) – Iran began military exercises near its border with Azerbaijan on Friday as tensions increased between the two neighbors over issues such as Baku’s relationship with Tehran’s archenemy Israel.

Iranian state media said the exercises involved tank and artillery units, as well as drones and helicopters. They started near the Poldasht and Jolfa border crossings with Azerbaijan.

Iran has long criticized Azerbaijan’s military relations with Israel, which include the purchase of Israeli weapons. Tehran has also been suspicious of nationalists in Turkey and Azerbaijan who are fueling secessionist tendencies among its Azerbaijani minority.

After Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev reportedly expressed “surprise” at the planned exercises, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said Thursday that a state’s military exercises on its territory are part of its national sovereignty, Iranian state media said.

Referring to an Israeli presence along the Iranian border, Amirabdollahian told the new Azerbaijani ambassador: “Iran does not tolerate the activities of the Zionist regime against its national security and will do whatever is necessary,” state media reported.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) think tank, Israel provided arms worth around $ 825 million to Azerbaijan between 2006 and 2019.

Separately, Iran announced a visit by the Israeli foreign minister to Bahrain on Friday to mark the establishment of relations, saying the trip left a stain on the rulers of the Arab Gulf state that “will not be erased”.

Reporting from Dubai Newsroom; Adaptation by Angus MacSwan

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