Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry has suggested that Iran was involved in the shooting attack near Baku that left MP Fazil Mustafa wounded and warned that Baku-Tehran relations are approaching a crisis point.
"Recently, threats have been voiced and provocations were conducted against Azerbaijan from the territory of Iran," read the English version of the March 31 statement by ministry spokesman Aykhan Hajizada. It went on to list military exercises held near the common border late last year, the more recent military flights along the border, the "terrorist" attack against the Azerbaijani embassy in Tehran in January, and "the initial investigation of the terrorist attack against the member of the Milli Majlis [parliament] Fazil Mustafa leading to Iran."
Previously, several politicians, both from the opposition and ruling party, had suggested that Iran was behind the March 28 attack on Mustafa.
The Azerbaijani MFA's statement was a response to Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani, who in turn was commenting on remarks by Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen.
Cohen had said at a joint briefing with Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov at the opening ceremony of the Azerbaijani embassy in Tel Aviv on March 29. Cohen said that Azerbaijan and Israel had agreed to form a "unified front in the face of Iran."
"We must work together to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear capability, and it will be best to achieve that goal through political and economic means, while a credible military threat is understood," he said.
Kanaani described Cohen's statement as "yet another piece of evidence proving the Zionist regime's evil intentions to turn the Republic of Azerbaijan's territory into a threat against the national security of the Islamic Republic of Iran."
He added that Iran demands an explanation from Azerbaijan over the meaning of Cohen's remark on a "unified front" against Iran.
In his March 31 statement, the Azerbaijani MFA spokesman invited Kanaani to "listen carefully" to statements made by Bayramov. He asserted that the Azerbaijani top diplomat "has not displayed any standpoints against Iran," and that Azerbaijan "has never allowed the use of its territory against third countries."
The statement adds: "Against the backdrop of the abovementioned, we strongly condemn the statement of Nasser Kanaani, spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran. This statement is the next step toward the crisis in the relations between Azerbaijan and Iran."
Meanwhile, Azerbaijani law enforcement reportedly arrested six people as suspects in the shooting of MP Fazil Mustafa. Four were detained as a result of joint operation of different law enforcement agencies, the Interior Ministry confirmed to local news agency Turan in the early hours of April 3.
A few hours later, pro-government news sites reported the detention of two more, apparently in a separate operation.
Report.az published the names, photos, and short bios of four people it asserted were involved in the shooting -- though law enforcement bodies have not yet disclosed any such information.
Report.az speculated that all the detainees are religious Shias from Azerbaijan and that some of them lived, studied or traveled to Iran at various times. It alleged that the attacker was trained by Iranian special forces.
Heydar Isayev is a journalist from Baku.