Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov and his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian recently exchanged views on the current state of bilateral relations as tensions ease.
“Having positively assessed the developments over the past week, the Ministers noted the warning issued by the relevant authorities of Iran in connection with respect for the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, as well as the release of 2 Iranian drivers by Azerbaijan as a mutual positive step,” according to a statement posted on the official website of the Azerbaijani foreign ministry on October 23.
They also underlined the importance of resolving all differences of opinion through dialogue and continuing the work of the Joint Intergovernmental Commission, renewed by the new administration of Iran.
The Iranian minister expressed hope for the "expansion and deepening of ties" and urged the Azerbaijani authorities to facilitate the smooth running of Iranian haulage convoys across Azerbaijani territory in the future.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Azerbaijan are two Muslim neighbors with many commonalities. I had a frank, cordial and constructive conversation with my counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov regarding the roadmap for comprehensive relations," Amir-Abdollahian tweeted on October 24, following the conversation.
"Relations between the two governments and two nations develop under the shade of mutual respect," he added.
Tensions between the two neighboring Caspian littoral states have risen in the past several months over illegal trips of Iranian lorries to certain parts of Azerbaijan’s Karabakh (Garabagh) region, where the Russian peacekeeping forces are temporarily deployed.
On August 11, Iran’s ambassador to Azerbaijan received a Note Verbal from the foreign ministry in addition to an earlier verbal notification about Baku’s dissatisfaction with the illegal transit of goods to the Karabakh region. However, the verbal notification and Note Verbal were ineffective in settling the controversy. Around 60 Iranian trucks illegally traveled to the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan from August 11 to September 11. The trucks moved from Iran to Armenia, then to the Karabakh region via the Lachin corridor.
In early September, Azerbaijan’s customs officials began to collect fees from Iranian cargo lorries for using the Azerbaijani section of the road between Armenia's towns of Gafan and Gorus. The Gorus-Gafan road is a part of the main land route between Iran and Armenia. The 21-km Azerbaijani section of the road had been handed over to Azerbaijan, following the Second Karabakh War in 2020.
According to Azerbaijan's State Customs Committee, foreign vehicles entering or leaving the country must pay a road tax and an international transport fee. On September 15, Azerbaijani border guards detained two Iranian drivers for illegally crossing into Azerbaijan from Armenia.
Meanwhile, Tehran accused Baku of allowing Israeli forces on Azerbaijani soil and conducted large-scale military drills close to its border with Azerbaijan. The drills were named Conquerors of Khaybar, in an apparent reference to the Battle of Khaybar in 628CE in which Muslims fought against Jews. However, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev described the allegations about the presence of the Israeli forces in the country’s territories as “baseless.”
The two Iranian drivers were handed over to Iran on October 21, after Iran’s Road Maintenance and Transportation Organisation (IRMTO) warned logistics companies against entering into Azerbaijan's Karabakh region illegally.
The IRMTO instructed that Iranian transit trucks traveling from Iran through Armenia should enter the Karabakh region, including the city of Lachin, only through the official border checkpoints established on the border by Azerbaijan. In the letter, the IRMTO referred to a directive issued by Iran’s Foreign Ministry on October 1 which says any entry into Azerbaijan’s territory through the crossings that are not regarded as the official border checkpoint of that country is a violation of Azerbaijan's territorial integrity.