Azerbaijani Navy Visits Iran for First Time Amid Warming Ties
Azerbaijan’s navy has made its first-ever visit to Iran, signaling warming ties between the wary neighbors and Baku’s growing desire to show that it has non-Western geopolitical options.
Two Azerbaijani patrol ships visited the Iranian port of Enzeli, where the crews visited an Iranian missile boat and did some sightseeing. The visit was low-key, but it was a big step in Azerbaijan-Iran relations on the Caspian, which have generally been characterized by tension and mistrust.
There have been a number of episodes in the past two decades where Iran appeared to be trying to intimidate vessels involved in Azerbaijani oil exploration, and Azerbaijan has worried about its capacity to stand up to its much larger neighbor.
In 2001, an Iranian warship threatened a British Petroleum research vessel in Azerbaijani waters. And a fascinating set of United States diplomatic cables described another incident in 2009 when Iran moved its own oil-exploration rig into Azerbaijani waters, and Baku relied heavily on U.S. guidance to try to deal with the situation.
Lately, though, tension between Baku and Tehran has been diminishing. Since the election of President Hassan Rouhani in 2013, and a subsequent easing of international pressure on Iran, “the two states have been moving closer,” Alex Vatanka, an expert on Iran’s relations with the post-Soviet world at the Washington-based Middle East Institute, told The Bug Pit. Read More
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