Azerbaijan and Turkey announce military drills amid rising tensions with Iran
Azerbaijan and Turkey are to hold military exercises near the Iranian border, said Ankara's defence ministry on Sunday.
The drills, set to take place from Tuesday to Friday in Azerbaijan, were announced amid rising tensions between Baku and neighbour, Iran.
The Iranian army conducted military exercises near Azerbaijan's border last week after Baku's restrictions on Iranian truck drivers and previous military exercises by Turkey and Azerbaijan in the area.
Iran is also said to be uneasy about Azerbaijan's close ties with Israel.
"The Steadfast Brotherhood-2021 drill will take place with the participation of Turkey and Azerbaijan in Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan between 5-8 October," said Major Pinar Kara, a spokesperson from Turkey's ministry of national defence.
This follows earlier military drills by Turkey, Pakistan and Azerbaijan in September, which led a spokesperson for Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to warn those countries "not to play with the lion's tail".
Iran's state television broadcasted Friday’s military drills, showing off its tanks, helicopters and artillery. The Iranian army said it was testing locally-made drones and other "achievements" for the first time.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev expressed concern and surprise following Friday's drill and said: "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?"
In response, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said: "The drills carried out by our country in the northwest border areas... are a question of sovereignty."
However, some analysts believe that the show of strength has more to do with Tehran's arch-rival Israel.
Israel has sold billions of dollars of weapons to Azerbaijan, providing Baku with military muscle during its war with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
"We do not tolerate the presence and activity against our national security of the Zionist regime, or Israel, next to our borders,” said Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein to Azerbaijani's ambassador in Tehran last Thursday.
Amirabdollahian added: "And we will carry out any necessary action in this regard."
Tensions have been further inflamed by Azerbaijan imposing a "road tax" on Iranian trucks travelling to the contested Karabakh region and detaining two Iranian lorry drivers in the last month.