By Ron Synovitz, RFE/RL
Amember of Azerbaijan's ruling political party has reacted gleefully to calls from Iranian lawmakers for the renegotiation of the 19th-century treaty that created the border between their countries.
Iranian state media suggest that renegotiating the 185-year-old Treaty of Turkmenchay would lead to the annexation of northern Azerbaijan by Tehran.
But Siyavush Novruzov, deputy executive secretary of the ruling New Azerbaijan Party in Baku, says any renegotiation of the treaty would force Tehran to cede territory in northwestern Iran to Azerbaijan.
The Treaty of Turkmenchay was negotiated in 1828 after Persian forces were defeated by the tsar's army in the Russo-Persian War.
Having lost the war, the Persians were forced to recognize Russian control over what is now Armenia and Azerbaijan.
The Treaty of Turkmenchay established the Aras River as the common boundary between tsarist Russia and the Persian Empire, ruled at the time by the Qajar dynasty.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, that demarcation line became the border between Iran and the former Soviet republics of Azerbaijan and Armenia.
The signing of the Treaty of Turkmenchay
This treaty represented the Persian Empire's recognition of Russian suzerainty over the Erivan Khanate, Naxcivan Khanate, and the remainder of the Talysh Khanate, establishing the Aras River as the common boundary between both empires, after the defeat of the Persians in 1828 at the end of the Russo-Persian War.
Back To Square One?
Parliament deputies from northwestern Iran this week reportedly have been drafting a bill that will call for a revision of the Treaty of Turkmenchay.
Iran's Fars news agency on April 9 quoted Kamaloddin Pir-Moazzen, a member of parliament from Iran's northwestern Ardabil Province, as saying that lawmakers were now working on the draft legislation.
And on April 10 another lawmaker, Nader Qazipur of Orumieh (Urmia), the capital of Iran's West Azerbaijan Province, was quoted as saying that parliament was ready to revise the treaty if Baku didn't stop what he described as "vicious acts."
But in Baku, Novruzov is arguing that one of the key signatories of the treaty, the Qajar Crown Prince Abbas Mirza, was from a Turkic-speaking family with historic Azerbaijani roots.
He says that means the Treaty of Turkmenchay is a "treaty of Azerbaijanis, not the Persians, in terms of legitimacy."
Relations between Tehran and Baku have been tense in recent months over Azerbaijan's ties to Israel, with Iran accusing Azerbaijan of allowing Israeli spies to use its territory. But the latest barb in relations came in late March when groups seeking independence for Iran's large Azeri minority held a conference in Baku.
This week's remarks by the Iranian lawmakers are not the first time that Iranian territorial claims have come up in the months ahead of the June presidential and provincial elections in Iran.
Ayatollah Mohammad Bagher Kharrazi, a presidential hopeful, said in February that Tajikistan, Armenia, and Azerbaijan would be "returned" to Iran if he became the country's next president.
Those remarks led to an angry reply from Tajikistan's Foreign Ministry. It rated Kharrazi's statement as "the remarks of an intriguer, an ignoramus, and an unaware person."
The Foreign Ministry in Dushanbe also said Kharrazi "does not understand the realities of what is happening and the current situation in the region and the world, as well as the system of international law."
Written by Ron Synovitz, based on reporting by RFE/RL's Azerbaijan Service and Radio Farda, Fars, APA, and Asia-Plus
Copyright (c) 2013 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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