The Turkish-Azerbaijani Factor in the Armenian-Iranian Relations

Independent expert

The Armenian-Iranian relations have a reciprocal importance. In early 1990s, it was the Iranian territory that was almost the only way, connectingArmeniawith the outside world, and todayIranis still important forArmeniaas a transit country. As forArmenia, it is important forIranfrom the view of the national security, soTehranis interested in the stable and strongArmenia. In other words, in the current situation the relations between the two countries, ideally, should be developing and strengthening without any obstacle.

Since the very first moment when Armenia proclaimed independence and up to now these relations have been evaluated as friendly and good-neighboring, but their development does not correspond to their potential, which can be explained by the relations between Iran and Azerbaijan.  As far as the ruling clerical elite inIranfinds the relations with the Islamic states important, so this is just the priority of the foreign policy of the country.Azerbaijan, speculating on that, has used the Iranian economical support in plenty: in particular, during the Karabakh war,Azerbaijanreceived various kinds of assistance, including humanitarian aid, i.e. support to the refugees and the families, who were killed and disabled people.Iranalso allowed the Mojaheds to penetrate into Karabakh through its territory. At the same time,Baku, speculating on the Christianity of Armenia, tried to present the conflict as a confessional confrontation and demanded fromIranto exert pressure onArmenia.


And although officialTehranspared no effort in the Islamic World to prevent taking such an approach seriously, principally it is unable to ignore the Muslim nature ofAzerbaijan.

Meanwhile, in reality it isArmeniathat is the most reliable and friendly state in the South Caucasus forIran, if we take into accountGeorgia’s marked pro-western orientation andAzerbaijan’s apparent territorial claims toIran. By the way, many Iranian experts also emphasize thatIranandArmeniaare friendly countries, enjoying reciprocal trust.  In his broad article in “Amshahri” newspaper Bahman Shaib, analyzing the relations withArmeniaand its neighbors, points out thatIranis the only neighbor ofArmenia, with which the latter has no problems, and the cultural and historical community contributes to even closer relations. The author also notes that in the South Caucasus forIranit isArmenia, with which it has no problems.

Now, when the relations betweenIranandAzerbaijanare so close that have never been before, the Turkish-Azerbaijani factor displays itself in the Armenian-Iranian relations most obviously. This thesis can be proved just by the fact that the visit of the Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad toArmeniaby the invitation of Serj Sargsyan, which was scheduled for June 6, was postponed for an indefinite time.Iran’s explanation was that the Armenian side allegedly had not prepared the documents for signing on time.  It should have been the second visit of the President Ahmadinejad toArmenia. The first one took place in October 22-23, 2007, and then the sides signed 4 agreements on the economic cooperation. On October 23 Ahmadinejad interrupted the visit and came back toIran, where he said to journalists that the visit was planned for 22 hours, but he remained inArmeniafor an hour and a half more. The Armenian Foreign Minister said on this matter that he interrupted the visit for an hour and a half sooner, having not taken part in two important events.  One of those two events was the scheduled visit of the Iranian President to Tsitsernakaberd, the Memorial of the victims of the Genocide. Actually, this way Ahmadinejad escaped from that visit, which might have invokedBaku’s andAnkara’s dissatisfaction. Ahmadinejad did not want it, as far as it could cause undesirable speculations, taking into account that ex-President Mohammad Khatami’s visit to the Memorial by a cut off program in 2004 caused indignation and a wave of grievances in Ankara and Baku.

The relations between Iran and Azerbaijan are as close as they have never been since the proclamation of independence. At the same time Iran and Turkey have also established solid relations.  In case if Ahmadinejad had visited Tsitsernakaberd, Baku’s and Ankara’s reaction would have been strongly negative. In addition, the Iranian President has serious problems with his own parliament, where pro-Azerbaijani forces are also represented, and the visit to Tsitsernakaberd might have escalated the situation. It is also necessary to note that some Iranian mass media and analysts criticized President Ahmadinejad for visiting Armenia.

The analyst of the Iranian Eurasia research centre Elias Vahedi in the article, placed in the site of the center on June 5 (its extended version can be found by the following address:, expressed his critical attitude to the visit of the Iranian President to Armenia, noting that the visits on the highest level to Armenia are not reasonable.  He stressed that achievements of such visits are not only insignificant, but also pose a serious blow on the relations with Azerbaijan and Baku, and on Iran’s rating in the Islamic World. According to Vahedi, Iran has to concentrate its efforts in the whole world and in the South Caucasus, in particular, to  consolidate Shiites, otherwise a split among the Shiites could not be ruled out, so it would be possible to speak about the Iranian, Turkish and Arab Shiites.  In this connection we would like to note that the author actually referred to the proposal of the member of parliament from the ruling “Yeni Azerbaijan” Party Siavush Novruzov, related to the vestment of   the clergy and seriously discussed by Azerbaijani mass media. The MP said that the Azerbaijani clergy should not put on a turban, which is a part of vestment of the Iranian clergy. At the same time he proposed to collect the offering boxes, which were arranged by Shiite centers by the Iranian example. The aim of such proposals is obviously the distancing from Iran, from which, against the backdrop of the events in the Arab countries, the danger of the Islamic revolution comes out.

Vahedi went even farther, saying that without Iran’s and Russia’s assistance to Armenia, the latter would have lost the war and could not occupy seven Azerbaijani regions. In addition he demanded from the President do defend the Azerbaijani territorial integrity not just, but completely. The author of the article considers defective the Iranian diplomatic efforts regarding Armenia, a country with limited economical and political possibilities, which is obliged to keep good-neighboring relations with   Iran. In conclusion he demanded that officials of his country remain committed to the Islamic ideology and condemn the occupation of the Azerbaijani lands. That is why it is necessary to suppose that the visit of the Iranian President was first of all conditioned by the intention to visit Tsitsernakaberd.

There are also other opinions on the relations. The former ambassador of Iran in Armenia Heghighyan in his interview to Eurasia research center, pointed out the following, when asked, whether the deepening relations with Armenia are in contradiction to the improving relations of Iran with Turkey and Azerbaijan: the priority of the Turkish foreign political strategy is improving relations with all neighbors, and Armenia is a neighbor of both – Iran and Turkey.  He added that development of relations with one of them is not aimed against the other and can only contribute to solve the problems between them.

In this context he assesses the relations with the Shia Azerbaijan as friendly and fraternal, meanwhile the Azerbaijani side blamesTehranfor its good relations withYerevan. The Azerbaijani analyst Dalga Khatinoglu, for example, points out that the Azerbaijani officials considerIranasArmenia’s ally, noting that there are serious disagreements in the Iranian-Azerbaijani relations.   He writes the following: “Armenia and Iran signed an agreement in the sphere of defense and implement serious projects, including the railroad construction, a power station on the Arax River and laying of the pipe to transit the oil-products, meanwhile Baku is sharply against such a cooperation, moreover, on the occupied territories.” He added that the Azerbaijani Defense Minister during a meeting in Baku with his Iranian colleague Ahmad Vahidi (October 12, 2010) strongly condemned the Iranian position, related to Armenia, saying: “Our concern in the relations with a number of countries persists as far as in the meetings with us they speak about friendly relations, meanwhile behind out back they do not spare efforts for enlarging and deepening their relations with Armenia in the economical and political spheres.”  And this is in the case, whenTehran, according to Azerbaijani sources, proposed just toBakuto develop cooperation in the sphere of defence. On October 12, 2010, in one of his interviews, given by Vahidi during the visit, he pointed out thatIranandAzerbaijanhave good opportunities to cooperate in the sphere of the military industry. He added that from this point of viewIranis among the developed countries, so ifAzerbaijandisplayed such a desire,Iranwould be ready to cooperate. He also found it possible to conduct mutual military exercises on theCaspian Sea.

It is necessary to add that the amounts of the economical cooperation betweenIranandAzerbaijanare twice as much higher than the Armenian-Iranian cooperation, and by the realization of large projectsAzerbaijanis also ahead. Unfortunately, after signing of the agreement on construction of the Iran-Armenia railroad, the project of Julfa-Nakhijevan-Igdyr has appeared on the agenda: the already signed appropriate trilateral agreement has been highly evaluated by the Iranian analysts.

Iran — President Mahmud Ahmadinejad (R) with his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian in Tehran, 13Apr2009


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