Azerbaijan's president has directly blamed the Iranian government for the attack on the Azerbaijani embassy in Tehran on January 27.
Ilham Aliyev was responding to a question posed by India's WION TV while speaking to reporters following a trilateral meeting with the Armenian prime minister and U.S. secretary of state in Munich on February 17.
"The fact that, right after this act of terror, the terrorist was interviewed by Iranian media demonstrates that he was one of those who was sent by some of the branches of Iranian establishment. And another strange thing was that two days after, he was announced as mentally disabled. How could they [have] held this expertise so quickly? That is an attempt to protect him from justice," Aliyev said in English.
"Therefore, Iranian government should have a transparent investigation. We must be informed about that. The terrorist must be punished, but most importantly, those who sent the terrorist, those representatives of the Iranian establishment who did this brutal act against Azerbaijan, must be brought to justice. Only after that we can talk about any kind of normalization."
This is the first statement from any Azerbaijani official directly accusing Iran of being behind the attack. Previous statements from the country's Foreign Ministry stopped short of such straightforward accusations, though they did link the attack to a "recent anti-Azerbaijani campaign against our country in Iran." And pro-government media were blaming "Iranian special services" within hours of the incident.
The president's statement comes after newly released footage of the attack appears to show Iranian law enforcement inaction as the incident was unfolding.
On February 6, Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry released a 24-minute video showing security camera footage of the embassy attack interspersed with interviews with embassy security officers who were wounded while subduing the gunman. The gunman is seen making hand gestures to unknown persons in the distance each time he enters and leaves the compound.
While he is inside wrestling with one of the Azerbaijani officers, an outside camera captures an Iranian police vehicle passing the embassy, talking for a few seconds to the local police officer posted outside, and leaving shortly after. Police and an ambulance arrive at the scene only nearly half an hour after the start of the attack, during which time the gunman kills the security chief, is wrestled down and thrown out of the building, knocked down the door and came back, and left again.
Vasif Taghiyev, the embassy staffer who bare-handedly fought the attacker, tells the camera he watched from a second floor window as police initially fail to intervene when the gunman sets an embassy car on fire and then do so only when he accidentally burns himself.
"The fact that the terrorist chose Friday, which is a holiday in Iran, to commit the incident (to minimize the circumstances that could interfere with the terrorist act), he brought with him to the scene a spare comb full of automatic weapons and bullets, a 'Colt' type pistol, a 'Molotov cocktail', a heavy impact tool and other means, the fact that the Iranian police did not intervene in the terrorist act gives grounds for presuming that the incident was planned in advance," the ministry said in an English press release accompanying the video.
Iran responded on February 19, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani calling on Azerbaijani officials to avoid "prejudgment" and "politicization" of the incident and expressing Iran's willingness to share the results of its probe with Baku.
"Talking to media to present non-legal interpretations of this incident is not a constructive action in the path of the legal and judicial investigation into the case," Kanaani added.
Heydar Isayev is a journalist from Baku.