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Iran concerned by Israel's presence in Caucasus, FM says

Iran’s chief diplomat, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, said his country will "not tolerate geopolitical change" in the region.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) and his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian hold a joint press conference following their meeting in Moscow on Oct. 6, 2021.

Iran’s new foreign minister said Wednesday that Tehran has “serious concerns” about Israel’s actions in the Caucasus region. 

Iran’s chief diplomat Hossein Amir-Abdollahian made the comments while in Moscow for talks with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

"We certainly will not tolerate geopolitical change and map change in the Caucasus,” Amir-Abdollahian said in a press briefing. “We have serious concerns about the presence of terrorists and Zionists in this region.”

Israel provides significant arms to Azerbaijan. According to the Israel Hayom newspaper, Baku is considering buying Israel’s Arrow-3 missile defense system. During its six-week war with Armenia for control of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region last year, Azerbaijan deployed Israel-made surveillance drones on the battlefield. 

Earlier this week, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Leyla Abdullayeva pushed back on Iran’s repeated claims that Israeli troops are in the country. 

“We reject the allegations of any third party’s presence near the Azerbaijani-Iranian border. Such allegations are totally baseless,” Abdullayeva said Monday.

Tensions have risen between Iran and neighboring Azerbaijan in recent weeks. In mid-September, Baku held joint military drills with Turkey and Pakistan near the 700-kilometer (435-mile) border Azerbaijan shares with Iran. Tehran responded by launching military drills of its own on Friday, prompting Turkey to announce plans for military drills with Azerbaijan this week. 

During an interview with Turkish news agency Anadolu, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev denounced the Iranian war games and asked, "Why now, and why on our border?”

In a further sign of tension between the two neighbors, Iranian news agency Tasnim reported on Tuesday that Azerbaijan shut down a mosque in the Azerbaijani capital that was linked to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.