[Armenian News note: The below is translated from Persian]
The head of Iran's Islamic Culture and Relations Organisation has dismissed speculations about change of Tehran's strategy towards Baku and said that the Supreme Leader has always defended the rights of the people and the government of Azerbaijan Republic, Mehr news agency reported on 5 March.
Abouzar Ebrahimi Torkaman made these remarks in Persian and Azeri during a special news conference in Tehran after certain incidents during the Armenian Prime Minister's visit to Tehran last week led to speculations about souring of relations between Iran and the Azerbaijan Republic.
"In the past few days, unfortunately, a misunderstanding has upset the endeared people of Azerbaijan [Republic] and led to rumours and suspicions that the Islamic Republic of Iran has changed its strategy towards the nation and the government of Azerbaijan Republic… As the spokesman of our Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also underlined, the slogans chanted on the margins of the meeting of the Armenian Prime Minister with the Armenian community in Iran, do not reflect the Islamic Republic's views at all," Mehr quoted Torkaman as saying.
He described Azerbaijan as one of the "most important countries of the region" among the 15 neighbouring countries of Iran and stressed that Tehran always uses official channels to announce its position.
Torkman went on to add that Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has always defended the rights of the people of Azerbaijan. He said: "The Supreme Leader of the Islamic revolution has always shown that he is kind and fond of the people of Azerbaijan Republic. That opinion of his has remained unchanged today."
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan visited Iran last week and met the Supreme Leader and President Hassan Rouhani. In his meeting with Supreme Leader, Khamenei advised Yereven and Baku to "continue talks" on the issue of the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh and offered Iran's mediation to resolve the dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan Republic.
In the recent months several Iranian and Azerbaijani delegations, including one headed by the Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, Maj-Gen Mohammad Baqeri, visited each other's capitals. As Torkman was making the reconciliatory remarks on 5 March, Tehran hosted the Azerbaijani minister of economy.