Azerbaijan announced on Monday that it had arrested five of its citizens on suspicion of spying on behalf of Iran amid escalating tensions between the Caucasus country and Tehran.
According to the Azerbaijani security services, the arrests took place as part of “measures aimed at addressing the subversive activities carried out by Iranian intelligence against Azerbaijan”.
The five detainees are accused of collecting information on the Azerbaijani army, including its purchases of Israeli and Turkish drones, as well as energy infrastructure.
In early November, Azerbaijani authorities announced the arrest of 17 people accused of belonging to an “illegal armed group formed by Iran on Azerbaijani soil”.
On Friday, Azerbaijan summoned the Iranian ambassador to protest Iran’s “threat rhetoric” against Baku.
On the eve of the summons, the Iranian Foreign Ministry handed the Azerbaijani ambassador a note of protest against the “anti-Iranian” statements made by Azerbaijani officials.
Iran, home to millions of ethnic Azeris, has long accused its neighbor of fomenting separatist sentiments in its territory.
Tehran also views Baku’s ambitions with great suspicion to establish a corridor to its Nakhichevan enclave and from there to Turkey, and through the corridor along the Armenian-Iranian border. The mentioned enclave belongs to Azerbaijan but is not geographically linked to it.
This project would end Azerbaijan’s dependence on Iran for access to the Nakhchivan enclave.
The issue is a major point of contention between Azerbaijan and Armenia, which fought two wars in 2020 and the 1990s for control of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Relations between Baku and Tehran are traditionally delicate, as Turkish-speaking Azerbaijan is a close ally of Turkey, a historical enemy of Iran.
Tehran also fears that Israel will use Azerbaijani territory in a possible attack on it, given that the Jewish state is the main arms supplier to Baku.
Read More About: World News