Azerbaijan Denies Claims It’s Hosting Israeli Troops

Members of the Iranian Army take part in a military exercise dubbed “Fatehan of Kheibar,” in the northwestern parts of Iran, in this picture obtained on Friday. (Iranian Army/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via REUTERS)

The Caucasus country of Azerbaijan rejected Iranian allegations that Israeli military personnel was in the country, the Times of Israel reported.

“We reject the allegations of any third party’s presence near the Azerbaijani-Iranian border, such allegations are totally baseless,” said Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Leyla Abdullayeva.

Iran, Azerbaijan’s neighboring county, has been hosting military drills along their shared border, with state television showing soldiers, tanks and helicopters engaged in target practice.

Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev last week criticized the Iranian drills, asking “why now, and why on our border?”

Israel has been a major arms supplier to Azerbaijan, with more than $825 million sold between 2006 and 2019, according to Reuters.

Azerbaijan won last year’s six-week war with neighbor Armenia over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. Armenia was forced to concede significant sections of territory to Azerbaijan after a Russia-brokered ceasefire, including sections of the border with Iran.

Azerbaijan’s army held joint drills with Turkey and Pakistan earlier this year near the Iranian border, and further angered Iran by imposing customs fees on Iranian truck drivers heading to Armenia.

Iran has long criticized Azerbaijan’s relationship with Israel, and was allied with Armenia in disputes over Karabakh. Iran has long been wary of Azerbaijan encouraging secessionist views among  Iran’s 10 million strong ethnic Azerbaijani minority.

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smarcus@hamodia.com