The recent earthquakes in Iran are creating a fresh diplomatic challenge for Azerbaijani-Iranian relations. Some in Baku are complaining about the Iranian governmental response to the disaster, which occurred in northwestern Iran, an area with a large concentration of ethnic Azeris.
Two quakes on August 11 left more than 300 dead. The epicenter was about 37 miles southwest of Tabriz, Iran’s fifth largest city and the capital of the country’s East Azerbaijan Province. Iranian authorities initially seemed ambivalent about accepting foreign assistance, but announced a more open stance on August 14.
Azerbaijani-Iranian relations have been marked by rising tension in recent months. But on August 12, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev sent condolences to his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The next day, Azerbaijan dispatched a truck convoy carrying emergency aid items, including tents and blankets.
Such gestures initially offered hope of a diplomatic thaw. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that Azerbaijan’s patience with Tehran is wearing thin. In the most obvious sign of displeasure, a crowd gathered outside the Iranian Embassy in Baku to protest what they asserted was the Ahmadinejad administration’s lackluster response to quake victims, who are mostly ethnic Azeris.
So instead of helping to bring the feuding nations together, it appears the quakes are fueling bilateral rancor.