Last updated: 29 March, 2012

Azerbaijan denies giving Israel air base access

Azerbaijan on Thursday denied allegations made by a US magazine that it had granted Israel access to its air bases which could assist in potential strikes against its neighbour Iran.

Citing anonymous senior US diplomats and military intelligence officers, the article published in Foreign Policy magazine on Wednesday suggested that cooperation between Azerbaijan and Israel was “heightening the risks of an Israeli strike on Iran”.

The article suggested that access to Azerbaijani airfields near the Iranian border could give Israeli fighter planes logistical advantages in carrying out sorties against nuclear facilities in Iran, which the Jewish state suspects of developing atomic weapons.

But the Azerbaijani defence ministry said the claims were untrue.

“This information is absurd and groundless,” defence ministry spokesman Teymur Abdullayev told AFP.

A senior official at Azerbaijan’s presidential administration said such speculation was “aimed at damaging relations between Azerbaijan and Iran”.

“We have stated on numerous occasions and we reiterate that there will be no actions against Iran… from the territory of Azerbaijan,” presidential official Ali Hasanov told journalists in Baku.

Relations between Baku and Tehran have become increasingly strained in recent months with Iran unhappy about Azerbaijan’s friendly links with Israel and its reported purchase of hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of weapons from the Jewish state.

Tehran last month accused Azerbaijan of working with Israel’s spy services and helping assassins who murdered Iranian nuclear scientists in recent years — a claim rejected by Baku as “slander”.

Tensions have also flared over a series of recent arrests in Azerbaijan of suspected attack plotters with alleged links to Tehran.