Iran Denies Interest In "Return" of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan
A minor diplomatic kerfuffle has arisen over an Iranian presidential candidate's campaign promise to "return" Armenia, Azerbaijan and Tajikistan if he is elected. The candidate, Ayatollah Sayyid Mohammed Bokiri Kherrozi, promised that:
“If I am elected as president, I will return the lands of Tajikistan, Armenia and Azerbaijan, which were separated from Iran...
He said the return of the territories separated from Iran will be the major program of his pre-election campaign.
“I will get back these lands without any bloodshed.”
Naturally, this was not well received in Baku, Dushanbe or Yerevan.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Tajikistan responded with a statement calling Kherrozi an "intriguer, an ignoramus and an unaware person" (according to BBC Monitoring's translation). Asked about Kherrozi's claim, Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry spokesman Elman Abdullayev said that he "doesn’t comment on absurd and groundless statements."
And Iran's ambassador to Yerevan had to clarify that Kherrozi's remarks did not reflect official policy:
Speaking about the mentioned remark, Ambassador Mohammad Raiesi said Kherrozi is not an official but religious figure, thus he cannot express the position of the state.
“Iran is a free country. Everyone can say whatever he wants. Iran has no such plans. We respect territorial integrity of the states. Iran’s official policy is voiced by president and foreign minister,” Ambassador emphasized.
Kherrozi is a fairly marginal figure; he isn't even included in this pretty extensive list of potential presidential candidates. His chances of becoming president, and realizing his expansionist dream, seem slim. But one wonders why his ambitions are so modest: Persia has, at its greatest extent, included not only the countries in Kherrozi's sights but also Turkey, the Levant, Egypt, much of South and Central Asia and some of the Balkans. Perhaps that would be in his second term?
Joshua Kucera is the Turkey/Caucasus editor at Eurasianet, and author of The Bug Pit.
Sign up for Eurasianet's free weekly newsletter.