Azerbaijani-Iranian relations

History of relations: The Azerbaijani-Iranian relations have deep historical roots. The two peoples have lived side by side for centuries. Both of them belong to the Islamic world. Scientific, moral and cultural ties have united them throughout the history. The Gulustan (1813) and Turkmenchay (1828) treaties divided Azerbaijan, a part of which fell under the rule of Iran. At present, over 35 million Azerbaijanis live in Iran. The Republic of Azerbaijan and the Islamic Republic of Iran share a 765-km border. Therefore, Azerbaijan intends to develop friendly and brotherly relations with Iran.

Bilateral political relations: Iran recognized Azerbaijan`s independence on December 25, 1991. The diplomatic relations were established on March 12, 1992. However, the both of them started to display interest in each other even before the establishment of diplomatic relations. The Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani visited Azerbaijan in 1990, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati in December 1991. Velayati`s visit was in connection with the mediation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh. The mediation was not effective due to Armenia`s aggressive actions. While the Azerbaijani leadership was negotiating with the Armenian side in Tehran on May 8, 1992, the Armenian armed forces occupied Shusha. A different stage in the Azerbaijani-Iranian relations began after the Popular Front came to power in Azerbaijan. This period (1992-1993) is marked by tensions between the two nations.

When Heydar Aliyev came to power in Azerbaijan in 1993, the policy of good neighborliness and cooperation with Iran was carried out, the relations brought to normalization and were intensively developed. Heydar Aliyev contacted with the Iranian leadership during his tenure in Nakhchivan (1990-1993). In order to meet the needs of Nakhchivan blockaded by Armenia, he visited Iran and held discussions with the Iranian government. As the Chairman of the Supreme Assembly of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, he visited Iran in August 1992 and held talks with the religious leader of Iran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Rafsanjani, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati. During that visit several agreements on Iran`s aid to the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic and cooperation between the parties in different spheres were signed.

The Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani visited Azerbaijan on October 26-28, 1993. The Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev said the following at the meeting with his Iranian counterpart: «We think that the relations between Azerbaijan and the Islamic Republic of Iran were a bit cool. However, we have taken necessary measures to eliminate them. We intend to continue them.» Agreements on friendship, economic, scientific and cultural cooperation between the two countries were signed during the visit.

While Hashemi Rafsanjani was on a visit to Azerbaijan, Zangilan, an Azerbaijani district bordering Iran was occupied by the Armenian troops. The people displaced as a result of the aggression managed to survive by crossing the Iranian border and came to Azerbaijan through the Iranian territory.

During his visit to Iran on June 29 - July 2, 1994, the Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev held discussions with Hashemi Rafsanjani on deepening bilateral cooperation. As a result of the visit, new agreements on cooperation between Azerbaijan and Iran in various spheres were signed. In his talks with Hashemi Rafsanjani, President Heydar Aliyev asked Iran to clarify its position regarding the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh and reflect it on the statement to be made between the parties. Following the negotiations with Foreign Minister Velayati, a statement condemning Armenia`s aggression was signed.

In December 1995, Iran`s deputy foreign minister, who visited Azerbaijan, brought several Azerbaijani Captives of war from Armenia. He also delivered to President Heydar Aliyev Hashemi Rafsanjani`s letter inviting to the opening ceremony of the Mashhad-Sarakhs-Tajan railway. Heydar Aliyev visited Iran to attend the opening ceremony on May 1996. At the airport of Mashhad, he gave an interview to the Iranian National Television.

Economic agreements were reached during his visit. In his meeting with President Heydar Aliyev, Hashemi Rafsanjani said that Iran would continue to render aid to the Azerbaijani refugees and IDPs. In order to demonstrate Azerbaijans`s intention to cooperate with Iran in oil industry, Heydar Aliyev invited an Iranian oil company to participate in the contract on developments in Shah Deniz deposit in 1997. Heydar Aliyev also visited Iran in December 1997 to attend the Tehran Summit of the Organization of Islamic Conference. In his meeting with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Heydar Aliyev said: «I express my gratitude to the Iranian authorities for the humanitarian assistance to the Azerbaijani refugees. I also regret that a number of countries render political and economic support to Armenia, which does not give up its non-constructive position in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.»

In his meeting with the newly elected Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, Heydar Aliyev said that Azerbaijan would continue its cooperation with Iran both bilaterally and within the OIC.

Chaired by Mohammad Khatami, the OIC conference in Teheran adopted a resolution condemning the Armenian aggression.

President Heydar Aliyev paid another visit to Iran in May 2002. President Heydar Aliyev and President Mohammad Khatami answered to the questions from reporters before meeting face to face.

Although the sides did not come to an agreement regarding the main topic of the discussion, which was the status of the Caspian Sea, Heydar Aliyev`s visit was estimated as the visit to a friendly country. In April 2003, President Heydar Aliyev received the Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi. President Heydar Aliyev mentioned his recent visit to Iran as a turning point in relations between the countries and expressed his support to closer economic relations.

After being elected President of Azerbaijan in October 2003, Ilham Aliyev continued the policy of friendship and cooperation with Iran. In August 2004, the Iranian President Mohammad Khatami paid a visit to Azerbaijan. He once more stated Iran supports Azerbaijan in the conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh. In addition to various agreements on cooperation, Khatami`s visit was also marked the solution of opening the Consulate General of the Republic of Azerbaijan in Tabriz.

In January 2005, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev paid a visit to Iran. The two countries signed agreements on cooperation in border issues, finance, culture, hydropower during the visit. In December 2005, the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic to attend the opening of the gas pipeline from Iran to Nakhichevan. The presidents signed a declaration on energy cooperation. Later they met again at the summit of the Economic Cooperation Organization in June 2006. In both meetings, the presidents stated that the relations between Iran and Azerbaijan continued at a high level.

In his interviews regarding the issue of nuclear power, which escalated in late 2005 – early 2006, President Ilham Aliyev expressed his opinion against the sanctions on Iran. He said that Azerbaijan`s territory will not be used against any country and the issue should be settled by mutual agreement and negotiations.

On August 21, 2007, the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad paid another visit to Azerbaijan. In their meeting, both presidents stressed the importance of the visit.

On October 16, 2007, President Ilham Aliyev arrived in Iran to participate at the second summit of the heads of the Pre – Caspian states. The presidents of Azerbaijan and Iran held a meeting, where they noted the successful development of political, economic and other relations in accordance with their interests.

On March 10, 2009, President Ilham Aliyev paid an official visit to Iran. In his meeting with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the successful development of bilateral relations between the two countries was emphasized.

During the visit, President Ilham Aliyev met the supreme religious leader of Iran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. By mentioning the successful development of good neighborly and brotherly relations between the two countries in various fields, including political and economic spheres, they expressed their confidence on the further expansion of biilateral Azerbaijani-Iranian relations.

President Ilham Aliyev attended the 10th summit  of the Economic Cooperation Organization in Tehran. The Tehran Declaration was adopted at the end of the summit.

During his official visit to Azerbaijan the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on November 17 in 2010. Stressing the successful development of bilateral relations between the two countries, they noted that high-level mutual visits will contribute to the development of these relations. The Presidents emphasized their confidence in the further development of relations, exchanged views on bilateral and international issues. As a result of the visit, a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in the field of energy and transport was signed between Azerbaijan and Iran.

President Ilham Aliyev and President Hassan Rohani met on January 23, 2014, at an international economic forum in Davos, Switzerland. They discussed the issues for expanding bilateral relations and regional cooperation.

President Ilham Aliyev`s third official visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran took place on April 9, 2014. President Ilham Aliyev held a private meeting with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani. Later he met the supreme religious leader of Iran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mahmoud Vaezi. As a result of the meetings, the sides signed several documents, including: a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in the field of youth and sports, a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in the field of emergency management, a Memorandum of Understanding on meteorology and related matters, an agreement on construction and operation of Ordubad and Marazad hydroelectric power stations.

Economic relations: Economic ties occupy a special place in the Azerbaijani-Iranian relations. The majority of documents concluded between the two countries since 1992 cover the economic sphere. Iran is interested in Azerbaijan`s oil, gas and petrochemical industry, in exporting these products and in investing. Iran`s NICO have a 10% share in Shah Deniz production sharing agreement. The economic relations between the two countries on energy, industry, transport and others complement each other. The Baku branch of Bank Melli Iran has been operating since 1993.

Cultural relations: Iran and Azerbaijan share rich cultural relations. The Azerbaijani classical poets, such as Khagani, Nizami, Nasimi, Fizuli created great works both in Azerbaijani and Persian. Tabriz-made carpets have earned fame since the Middle Ages. The Sheikh Safi carpet held in Victoria and Albert Museum in London was woven in Tabriz and became one of the most beautiful and largest carpets. Six comedies by M. F. Akhundzade were translated into Persian and spread in Iran in 1871-1874. The famous comedies by U. Hajibeyli were staged in Tabriz, Urmia and Khoy.

The Azerbaijani poet Seyyed Mohammad Hossein Behjat-Tabrizi  (Shahriar) wrote his works in Azerbaijani and Persian. His works, such as «Heydarbabaya salam», «Turkish divan» were published in Azerbaijan.

Within the framework of the joint project of the Central Scientific Library of the National Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan and the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Azerbaijan, the Azerbaijani-Iranian scientific and cultural hall was opened on December 21, 2006. It is aimed to promote and deepen the scientific and cultural relations, exchange of scientific experiments, scientific and educational activities.

Normalization of relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran has always been one of the key directions in Azerbaijan`s foreign policy. Despite misunderstandings and disagreements between Azerbaijan and Iran at different times , the both sides maintained a fairly high level of mutual cooperation by taking relevant measures. Currently, Azerbaijan and Iran have high-level relations. They also closely cooperate within the framework of international organizations, such as OIC, ECO. Iran has always condemned the aggression of Armenia against Azerbaijan.

Updated on September 5, 2014.