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Turkey, Azerbaijan plan to hold military drills after Iran moved forces

Turkey plans to hold joint military exercises with Azerbaijan this week in a region bordering Iran after the government in Baku criticized Tehran for staging army drills near its border, Bloomberg reports.

“The Steadfast Brotherhood-2021 drill will take place with the participation of Turkey and Azerbaijan in Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan between 5-8 October,” Major Pinar Kara, a spokeswoman of Turkey’s Ministry of National Defense, said in a televised announcement.

The announcement came after Iran’s army announced last week that it was holding drills in the northwest of the country. Earlier on Sunday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei defended the exercises near the border with Azerbaijan, which other officials have linked to Baku’s close ties with Tehran’s foe, Israel.

Iran is wary of Israel’s links to Azerbaijan, which is a major exporter of oil to the Jewish state. Israel, for its part, supplies Azerbaijan with drones and other high-tech weapons that helped Baku tip the military balance in its favor in last year’s war with Armenia.

Without naming anyone, Khamenei said countries in the region around Iran’s northwest shouldn’t allow “foreign armies that are serving their own national interests” to interfere in their affairs or become involved in their armies. He also said the presence of foreign forces in the Middle East were “a source of destruction” and urged neighboring countries to “stay independent” and “join forces.”

Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev has expressed concern over Tehran’s massing military assets near his country for the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union three decades ago. Tensions between the countries have also flared over Azerbaijan’s imposition of a road tax on Iranian trucks traveling to Armenia through Nagorno-Karabakh.