BAKU, 5 Aug. (IPS) Iran and the Republic of Azerbaijan signed on Thursday ten agreements and protocols aiming at improving and increasing trade between the tow neighbouring, Shi’a dominated nations.
The agreements on banking, railways, roads, cultural, security, gas and electricity among others, were signed during the first day of the official visit Iranian President Mohammad Khatami is paying to Baku, where he and his Azeri host, Elham Aliyev, expressed hope to see the visit helping foster peace in the region and the world.
But observers from Iran and Azerbaijan said they doubt that except friendly diplomatic rhetoric, anything concrete would come out from the visit, as the two sides have some basic disagreements.
Observers from Iran and Azerbaijan said they doubt that except friendly diplomatic rhetoric, anything concrete would come out from the visit.
Above all is the close relation between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Christian Armenia in the bloody conflict that opposes the two former Soviet Union’s republics.
Azerbaijan, which like Iran, is dominantly a Shi’a Muslim nation, can not understand why Iran is helping the Christians that not only has invaded Azerbaijan, but annexed the Armenian enclave of Nagorni Kharabkh.
The sharing of oil and gas in the Caspian Sea, considered as the largest after the Persian Gulf, is the most important economic issue over which the two countries reached the brink of war three years ago, after Iran dispatched gun boats and war planes to stop ships working for the Azeri State Oil Company in an area both sides claims sovereignty.
Among the five nations that have shores on the Sea, namely Azerbaijan, Russia, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, The Islamic Republic is the only one that insists on sharing the waters and resources on the equal basis of 20 per cent each.
But already Azerbaijan, Russia and Kazakhstan have defined their sea borders on internationally accepted principles and Turkmenistan is about to solve its disputes with Baku.
Tehran is also angry at the construction of the Baku-Tbilissi-Ceyhan pipeline that has deprives Iran from the lucrative transfer of the Caspian Sea oil and gas to Europe via Georgia and Turkey
On political issues, the Islamic Republic is angry at Baku’s close relationship with Israel and the United States. Iranian conservatives-controlled press constantly accuses Azerbaijan for having provided Washington and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation military facilities, a claim that Baku denies.
After several hours of talks with Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev, the Iranian leader made no public mention of any discord but hinted that relations “could be better”.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran attaches great importance to a powerful Azerbaijan which safeguards national and regional interests in this sensitive and strategic region", Mr. Khatamii said at the end of the first round of his talks with Aliyev.
Iran and Azerbaijan reached the brink of war three years ago, after Iran dispatched gun boats and war planes to stop Azeri exploring ships working in an area both sides claims sovereignty.
"History and geography have tied our fates together", Khatami added.
For his part, Aliyev hoped that the visit would bring fruits for peace and prosperity both in the region and the world.
"The Iran-Azerbaijan border is a border of peace and friendship. We consider the security of Azerbaijan as important as our own. Both leaders have a strong will to develop relations", Khatami said.
On Friday, Mr. Khatami is scheduled to give an address to the Azeri parliament and meet with Iranian businessmen working in Azerbaijan.
He is due to leave the country on Saturday after a stopover in the north-west Azeri city of Ganja, where he is scheduled to visit the tomb of 12th century Persian poet Nezami Ganjavi.
Khatami is the second Iranian president to visit Baku. His predecessor, ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani paid a visit on 1993.
"(Tehran) wants to limit the foreign military presence in certain areas and I think the discussions between President Khatami and Ilham Aliyev will be along those lines", Rassim Musabekov, an independent foreign affairs analyst in Baku told the French news agency AFP.
"I do not expect there will be any breakthrough", he said. "For now, Iran does not see any dividends from resolving this issue, except on its own terms". ENDS IRAN AZERBAIJAN 6804