Azerbaijan arrests group accused of Iran-backed coup plot

Iran, which has a large population of ethnic Azeris in its north-west, has attacked Azerbaijan for moving closer to Israel

Police stand guard in front of the Azerbaijan embassy in Tehran following an attack in January. AFP
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Azerbaijan’s security services arrested six people accused of working for Iranian authorities to overthrow Baku’s secular government and install a pro-Iran religious regime.

Those detained are all Azerbaijani nationals accused of being members of a group that has received funding and instructions from Iran to “undermine stability and start armed riots” in Azerbaijan, the State Security Service, the Ministry of Interior and the Prosecutor General’s Office said in a joint statement on Thursday.

Azerbaijan said it was expelling four Iranian diplomats over “provocative actions” in the latest deterioration of relations between the neighbours, in part due to Baku's improving relations with Tehran's archenemy Israel, according to a separate statement.

Dozens of Azerbaijani nationals have reportedly been arrested in the past few weeks for alleged links to Iran amid escalating tensions between the two countries.

Azerbaijan has also suggested that Iran may have been connected to an attempted assassination of an anti-Tehran Azerbaijani lawmaker a week ago.

In a statement on Thursday, Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry said it had summoned Iran's ambassador and expressed “strong dissatisfaction (with) the recent provocative actions demonstrated by his country in relation to Azerbaijan”.

The ministry said it was declaring four Iranian diplomats persona non grata and had given them 48 hours to leave the country.

Azerbaijan closed its embassy in Tehran in January after its head of security was killed in an attack, and last week opened the embassy in Israel.

Iran, which has a large population of ethnic Azeris in its north-west, has attacked Azerbaijan for moving closer to Israel, with its Foreign Ministry saying it sees the fledging relationship between Azerbaijan and Israel as “anti-Iranian”.

Updated: April 07, 2023, 6:39 AM