Iran envoy returns to Azerbaijan after Eurovision

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 25, 2012 12:22 PM
Iran envoy returns to Azerbaijan after Eurovision

BAKU (Reuters) - Iran's ambassador to Azerbaijan, withdrawn last month in protest at Baku's hosting of the Eurovision Song Contest, has returned to his post in a sign of easing tension between the Caspian Sea neighbors.

Tehran recalled its ambassador for consultations after Iranian clerics criticized Baku for hosting the flamboyant annual pageant of European pop, capping months of accusations by the two countries of meddling in each other's affairs.

"Iranian ambassador Mr. (Mohammad Bagir) Bahrami returned to Baku and resumed ... his duties," the embassy spokesman said on Monday.

The envoy's return may indicate a decision to calm relations between Iran and western-allied, mostly Shi'ite Azerbaijan after three weeks during which Baku barred a senior Iranian official from entering the country and jailed an Iranian reporter for two years for possession of drugs.

Iran in turn accused Azerbaijan of helping Israel in what it says was the Jewish state's assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists - a claim Baku has denied.

Azerbaijan has arrested dozens of people this year on suspicion of links to Iran's Revolutionary Guards, and of plotting attacks, including on the Israeli ambassador to Baku.

About 15 percent of Iranians are ethnic Azeris and there are strong linguistic and family cross-border ties. Each side fears the other will gain influence over its population.

(Reporting by Lada Evgrashina; Writing by Margarita Antidze in Tbilisi; Editing by Alissa de Carbonnel and Tim Pearce)