Iran Holds Military Exercises Near Tense Azerbaijani Border | World news
Tehran, Iran (AP) – The Iranian national army on Friday began exercises near its border with Azerbaijan, state television reported, demonstrating its military capabilities near a neighbor it is from. increasingly skeptical of its ties to the West and Israel.
Artillery, drones and helicopters will participate in the exercises, the report said, without specifying how long they would last or where exactly they would be held. Iran occasionally hosts such events, saying it wants to assess combat readiness and demonstrate its capabilities.
The exercises take place against a backdrop of increasing tensions along the border. Iran is wary of Azerbaijan in particular for its deep military cooperation with the Islamic Republic’s arch rival, Israel, and on Thursday expressed its concerns to Azerbaijani Ambassador to Tehran Ali Alizadeh.
“We do not tolerate the presence and activity against our national security of the Zionist regime, or Israel, near our borders,” Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said. “And we will take all necessary steps in this regard.”
Amirabdollahian called relations between Iran and Azerbaijan “important”, but insisted that Iran had the “right” to organize the exercises.
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Earlier this week, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said he was stunned by the planned exercises, in an interview with Turkish state agency Anadolu.
Azerbaijan and Israel have strengthened their military alliance in recent months, with high-tech drones provided by Israel aiding Azerbaijan in its conflict with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region last year.
Tensions with Azerbaijan have also complicated a vital border crossing that trucks use to transport fuel and other goods from Iran to Armenia. Azerbaijani authorities have arrested two Iranian truck drivers in recent weeks for attempting to use the road, angering Iran.
The head of the ground forces, General Kioumars Heidari, called Israel’s presence in Azerbaijan “disrupting security” in the region, the official IRNA news agency reported on Friday. “Our sensitivity towards the border has increased and (Israel’s) activities here are completely under our surveillance,” he said during the exercises.
The military exercises come after Azerbaijan for the first time organized joint military exercises with Turkish and Pakistani special forces.
The region remains on the alert in the face of escalating Iran’s nuclear program. Talks in Vienna to revive the now-tattered 2015 Tehran deal with world powers have stalled since June, with no date set for their resumption.
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