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Coronavirus Concerns Lead Azerbaijan To Extend Border Seal-Off With Iran

By Orkhan Jalilov April 22, 2020

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On February 29, Azerbaijan closed its borders with Iran, which remains the worst coronavirus-hit country in the Middle Easter, recording over 5,300 COVID-19-related deaths to date. / IRNA news agency

Azerbaijan has extended the border seal-off with its southern neighbor Iran until May 4 amid continued precautionary measures to contain COVID-19. However, the passing of transit lorries from the Iranian border crossings to Azerbaijan is underway. 

"The measure follows the decision made by the Special Headquarters for Combating Coronavirus (Covid-19) of Azerbaijan that extends the quarantine period in the country for two weeks," state news agency IRNA quoted the Iranian Customs Administration as saying on April 19.

The administration explained, however, that movement of cargo trucks and transit of goods are underway, adding that the Astara railway has expanded its activities at the same time as the completion of the infrastructure nears, while no disruption in export or import activity is expected.

Earlier this month, IRNA reported that 15,370 tons of carry-on luggage products worth $61,477,000 were exported to Azerbaijan through Astara customs checkpoint between March 2019 and March 2020, coinciding with the last Iranian calendar year.

A total of 120,068 tons of goods worth $36.73 million were exported via the Astara railroad over the same period.

On March 5, local media reported that the Azerbaijani State Maritime Agency temporarily banned ships flying the Iranian flag from entering Azerbaijan’s seaports as part of efforts to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the country.

On February 29, Azerbaijan closed its borders with Iran, which remains the worst coronavirus-hit country in the Middle Easter, recording over 5,300 COVID-19-related deaths to date.

Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Khalaf Khalafov recently voiced his country’s concerns over the transportation of fuel, raw materials from Iran to Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh region occupied by Armenia.

“The recent information and videos in the Armenian media about the transportation of fuel, raw materials and food by trucks with Iranian state license plates to the occupied territories of Azerbaijan have caused serious concern of Azerbaijani government and deep public dissatisfaction," Khalafov reportedly said in a phone conversation with Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Aragchi and Iranian envoy Javad Jahangirzadeh on April 15.

"Such incidents serve to support the occupant Armenia and escalate the conflict," the Foreign Ministry quoted Khalafov as saying. He added in the statement that Azerbaijan spares no efforts in protecting its ties with Iran, as well as transit and trade relations between the two countries despite the border closure.

Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister stressed the importance of his country's relations with Azerbaijan, noting that friendly and fraternal relations will continue. Referring to the enemies of Iran-Azerbaijan friendly relations, he noted that "these forces are constantly trying to damage our bilateral relations by providing such information.”

Meanwhile, the Iranian embassy in Azerbaijan said in a press release on April 13 that “while Iran-Azerbaijan all-out ties are improving, the enemies, as well as the forces, which cannot tolerate the development of relations, are releasing faked video pictures in an attempt to mar good neighborliness between the two countries."

The embassy added that Iran has no land or air connections with the territories occupied by the Armenian forces.

In early March, Azerbaijan allocated $5 million in humanitarian assistance to help tackle the coronavirus outbreak in Iran.