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Azerbaijan closes embassy in Iran following deadly shooting

Diplomatic staff and family members were evacuated after a gunman killed the embassy’s head of security and wounded two others.

Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian visits one of the individuals injured in the attack on Azerbaijan's embassy in Iran, January 27, 2023. Source: Fars Media Corporation via Wikimedia Commons.
Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian visits one of the individuals injured in the attack on Azerbaijan's embassy in Iran, January 27, 2023. Source: Fars Media Corporation via Wikimedia Commons.

Azerbaijan evacuated its embassy in Iran on Sunday two days after a gunman shot dead the diplomatic mission’s head of security and wounded two others. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev condemned the attack as a “terrorist act.”

“Terror against diplomatic missions is unacceptable!” Aliyev said in a statement. The president called for a swift investigation and for the suspect to be immediately punished. Tehran’s police chief General Hossein Rahimi said that the suspect was an Iranian man who believed his Azerbaijani wife was being held at the embassy.

Surveillance video released in Azerbaijan purportedly showed the gunman entering the building alone, while an Iranian security officer did little to stop the attack. Prior to the embassy’s evacuation, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry accused Iran of not doing enough to secure its diplomatic post.

“Previously, there have been attempts to threaten our diplomatic mission in Iran, and it was constantly raised before Iran to take measures to prevent such cases and to ensure the safety of our diplomatic missions,” the ministry stated. “Unfortunately, the last bloody terror attack demonstrates the serious consequences of not showing proper sensitivity to our urgent appeals in this direction.”

The U.S. has also condemned the attack.

“We echo President Aliyev’s call for a prompt investigation into this unacceptable violence,” said U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price.

Tensions between the two Shi’a Muslim-majority nations come as ties between Azerbaijan and Israel have been growing closer in recent years. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Israel buys 40% of its oil from Azerbaijan and supplied 27% of Azerbaijan’s major arms imports from 2011 to 2020, including 69% from 2016 to 2020. Both countries see Iran as a threat. Iran has accused Azerbaijan of harboring an “Israeli presence” on its border, a claim which Azerbaijan denies.

Deputy chairman of the Azerbaijani National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Sevinj Fataliyeva, told JNS earlier this month that Israel “is a time-tested and reliable strategic partner for Azerbaijan.”

“For thousands of years we have lived together as a family in peace, brotherhood and mutual respect,” National Assembly deputy Asim Mollazade added. “Our friendship, brotherhood and values helped us both survive a very difficult region with evil and international terror threatening both Israel and Azerbaijan.”

In July 2021, Azerbaijan opened its first trade representation office in Tel Aviv, marking the nation’s first official presence in Israel since the two countries established relations over 30 years ago. In March 2022, Azerbaijan opened its first tourism office in Israel and signed a cooperation agreement to work together to further the industry. In December later that year, Azerbaijan appointed its first ambassador to Israel following the country’s announcement that it would open an embassy in the Jewish state.

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