Azerbaijan expels four Iranian diplomats for ‘provocative actions’


Baku (Reuters) – Azerbaijan on Thursday said it was expelling four Iranian diplomats over “provocative actions” in the latest deterioration of relations between the neighbours, in part due to Baku’s improving relations with Tehran’s arch-enemy Israel.

Relations between Azerbaijan and Iran have grown increasingly strained in recent months, with the dispute coming to a head when Baku last week opened an embassy in Israel.

Azerbaijan has also suggested that Iran may have been connected to an attempted assassination of an anti-Tehran Azerbaijani lawmaker a week ago.

In a statement on Thursday, Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry said it had summoned Iran’s ambassador and expressed “strong dissatisfaction (with) the recent provocative actions demonstrated by his country in relation to Azerbaijan.”

The ministry said it was declaring four Iranian diplomats persona non grata and had given them 48 hours to leave the country.

Azerbaijan closed its embassy in Tehran in January after its head of security was killed in an attack, and last week opened the embassy in Israel.

Iran, which has a large population of ethnic Azeris in its northwest, has attacked Azerbaijan for moving closer to Israel, with its foreign ministry saying it sees the fledging relationship between Azerbaijan and Israel as “anti-Iranian”.

Fazil Mustafa, a member of the Azerbaijani parliament who has called Iran a “terrorist state”, was hospitalised after receiving wounds to his shoulder and thigh when he was shot with a Kalashnikov assault rifle last week in an incident Azerbaijan has called a “terror attack”.

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