Azerbaijan Frees Iranian Prisoners As Tensions Thaw Over Border
(Bloomberg) -- Azerbaijan freed two Iranian prisoners, suggesting the bordering countries are trying to reduce tensions and avoid a possible conflict over critical transit routes and Israel’s presence in the region.
The release was reported a day after Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and Azeri counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov spoke by phone in the first direct effort to address tensions that began escalating two weeks ago.
“The sides noted the harmful rhetoric observed recently, which does not correspond to the level of friendly relations between our countries, and the need to resolve all differences through dialogue,” Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.
Frictions spiked after Iran conducted military drills near the border, citing a presence of its enemy, Israel. Baku responded by staging army exercises with Turkey in the Nakhchivan exclave that borders Iran.
Iran’s trade ties with Armenia also emerged as a flashpoint after Azerbaijan began imposing a road tax on Iranian trucks that use a critical trade corridor to ship goods to the Armenian capital.
Armenia and Azerbaijan warred last year over the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region that’s internationally recognized as Azeri territory. That conflict complicated relations between Tehran and Baku, which used Israeli military equipment to claim victory over Armenia.
During Wednesday’s call Amirabdollahian urged Bayramov to ease the transit of Iranian trucks and release two Iranian truck drivers arrested by Azeri police in September.
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