Azerbaijan says Iranian warplane violated its airspace, summons Tehran’s ambassador

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Azerbaijan summoned Iran’s ambassador to Baku on Saturday after an Iranian warplane allegedly flew close to and crossed the Azerbaijani border.

An Iranian military aircraft flew along the Azerbaijan-Iran state border between the Azerbaijani districts of Zangilan and Bilasuvar on Saturday from 09:44 a.m. to 10:26 a.m. local time, Azerbaijan’s foreign and defense ministries said in a joint statement published on the foreign ministry’s website.

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The statement added that the plane was flying three to five km (two to three miles) away from the state border, and in some instances, it even crossed the border.

The Azerbaijani foreign ministry summoned Iran’s ambassador to the country to protest against the incident. Although Iranian state media reported the summoning, Tehran is yet to comment on it.

“The flight of a military aircraft for more than half an hour near the liberated territories of Azerbaijan is [a] provocation and unfriendly behavior towards Azerbaijan,” the statement read.

“We strongly condemn the Iranian side for such a provocative step, call on them to provide an appropriate explanation and refrain from such provocative steps in the future.”

The two countries, which share a border of around 700 kilometers (430 miles), have a complex relationship.

Iran is wary of Azerbaijan’s relations with Israel, a major supplier of arms to Baku. Tehran is also wary over nationalists in Azerbaijan and its close ally Turkey fanning separatist tendencies among its sizeable ethnic Azeri population.

Azeris are the largest minority group in Iran, with millions living in a region in northwestern Iran that shares the same name as the independent state of Azerbaijan.

The relationship between the two countries deteriorated further following an armed attack on Azerbaijan’s embassy in Tehran in January. The attack resulted in the death of an Azerbaijani security official and left two others wounded.

Iranian authorities said the attacker, an Iranian man, was arrested and cited “personal and family problems” as the motivation for the attack.

But Azerbaijan blamed Iran for the attack, with an Azerbaijani foreign ministry spokesman saying the attack was “encouraged” by an anti-Azerbaijani campaign in Iranian media.

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