Azerbaijani authorities declared on Thursday four employees of the embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Baku persona non grata.
Mirmahdi Mirsalampur Sherif, Gurbanali Purmerjan Varjovi, Hadi Moghadam, and Asker Bahari Khosh Menzer have been given 48 hours to leave Azerbaijan following the issuance of the statement.
“On April 6, 2023, Seyyed Abbas Mousavi, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the Republic of Azerbaijan was summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan. During the meeting, strong dissatisfaction was expressed to the Iranian Ambassador due to the recent provocative actions demonstrated by his country in relation to Azerbaijan,” the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Thursday.
“It was brought to the attention of the Iranian ambassador that 4 employees of the Iranian Embassy were declared persona-non-grata by the Azerbaijani government due to their activities that incompatible with diplomatic status and contradict the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, and those persons were demanded to leave the territory of Azerbaijan within 48 hours," the statement added.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Foreign Ministry summoned Ambassador Mousavi following the receipt of a note verbale from Iran. The note verbale, which was sent by Tehran on Monday, reportedly urged Azerbaijan to “take appropriate measures to prevent anti-Iranian broadcasts and articles in the Azerbaijani media”.
The Iranian authorities have been seen intensifying their bellicose rhetoric against Azerbaijan following the opening of the Azerbaijani embassy in Israel on March 29. During the post-opening press conference in Tel Aviv, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said Azerbaijan and Israel shared threats caused by Iran, which “creates non-stability in the Middle East by supporting and financing terrorism,” and called for joint action to contain Iran’s nuclear expansion.
Back then, Nasser Kanaani, the spokesperson for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, described the diplomatic mission’s launch as an “anti-Iran stance” and demanded an explanation from Baku.
The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry interpreted Kanaani’s remarks as “another anti-Azerbaijani move” and “a step towards causing a crisis” in the relationship between the two neighboring countries.
The relationship between Baku and Tehran is currently deteriorating, largely due to Iran’s activities in the region, including its large-scale military drills near Azerbaijani borders and growing support for Armenia. Iranian authorities, in turn, believe that Azerbaijan is responsible for “bringing Israel to the region,” a claim that Azerbaijan strongly denies. The relations between Tehran and Baku have been further strained by a recent armed attack on the Azerbaijani embassy in Tehran, which resulted in one death and two injuries among employees of the embassy.
Furthermore, the preliminary investigation into the armed attack on Azerbaijani parliament member Fazil Mustafa on March 28 also points to the Iranian trail. Several individuals were detained on April 3 by the Interior Ministry, State Security Service, and Prosecutor General’s Office of Azerbaijan, on suspicion of attempting to assassinate MP Fazil Mustafa. Operational data indicates that the suspects had made over 40 trips to Iran in different years.
Currently, the special services and police are conducting operations to expose the members of the Iran-funded spy networks in Azerbaijan. Over the past week, dozens of suspects have been detained with operational data pointing to their affiliation with Tehran’s special services.