The Iranian army’s ground forces began holding maneuvers near the country’s border with Azerbaijan on Friday, state media reported, despite criticism from its neighbor.
The exercises took place in open areas in northwestern Iran, said state television, which showed tanks, howitzers and helicopters firing at targets on the ground.
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“We respect good neighborly relations but we do not tolerate the presence of Zionist regime (Israeli) elements and ISIS terrorists in the region,” ground forces commander Brigadier General Kioumars Heydari told state TV.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev had criticized the Iranian war games in an interview published on Monday.
“Every country can carry out any military drill on its own territory. It’s their sovereign right. But why now, and why on our border?” he told Turkish news agency Anadolu.
His comments were rebuffed by Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh.
“The drills carried out by our country in the northwest border areas... are a question of sovereignty,” Khatibzadeh said in a statement on Tuesday.
A major supplier of arms to Azerbaijan, Israel came under diplomatic fire from Armenia during last year’s conflict between the Caucasus neighbors.
Iran and Azerbaijan share a border of around 700 kilometers (430 miles).
Ethnic Azeris make up around 10 million of Iran’s 83 million people.
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