Iran has declared four Azerbaijani diplomats persona non-grata, including two staff members of the embassy in Tehran and two employees of the consulate in Tabriz.
Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry’s Spokesperson Aykhan Hajizada said the Iranian decision was a tit-for-tat response to the analogical measure taken by Baku in April this year.
“As it is known, in early April, four employees of the Iranian embassy in our country were declared persona non grata by the Azerbaijani government for activities that do not correspond to diplomatic status and contradict the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations,” Hajizada told local media on Friday.
The Iranian side applied the principle of reciprocity as an excuse to declare two employees of the Azerbaijani embassy in Tehran – who were evacuated earlier after a terrorist attack on the embassy in January – as undesirable persons. In addition, two employees of the consulate in Tabriz were included in the blacklist, the spokesperson said.
“This step, taken against our country, damages bilateral relations, which are already experiencing a number of problems,” Hajizada said, adding that the news in the press these days was not new.
Azerbaijani authorities declared on April 6 four employees of the embassy of the Islamic Republic to Baku Mirmahdi Mirsalampur Sherif, Gurbanali Purmerjan Varjovi, Hadi Moghadam, and Asker Bahari Khosh Menzer persona non grata and gave then 48 hours to leave.
At the time, Baku explained the decision noting activities that were “incompatible with diplomatic status and contradicted the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations”.
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 share 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, 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 has been 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 were 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.
Azerbaijan blamed the members of the political establishment of Iran for organizing the attack and avoiding a transparent investigation into it. Baku has been demanding the disclosure of the outcomes of the investigation; however, Tehran refuses to share any data.
Furthermore, the preliminary investigation into the armed attack on Azerbaijani parliament member Fazil Mustafa on March 28 also pointed 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 Mustafa.
President Ilham Aliyev recently said that the relationship between Iran and Azerbaijan was at the “lowest ever level” due to the anti-Azerbaijan steps taken by the Islamic Republic. According to him, the condition for normalizing the strained relations is consideration of Azerbaijan’s “legitimate and justified demands”.
“If these demands are met, then we can talk about normalization. If not, then not. So, again, it was not our choice. But everybody in Iran, all segments of the establishment, should finally understand that the language of threats and terror will not work with Azerbaijan. The sooner they understand, the better we can see signs of normalization,” Aliyev said.