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Iran Foreign Ministry Spokesman Appointed Ambassador To Azerbaijan

Iran - Abbas Mousavi

Iranian news agencies on Thursday reported that Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Abbas Mousavi has been appointed as Iran's new envoy to Baku.

Mousavi who was appointed spokesperson in April 2019 will replace Javad Jahangirzadeh, the current envoy in Baku in September, but will continue to serve in his current position until starting his new assignment.

Mousavi's new position is challenging as Azerbaijan and Armenia, both Iran's neighbors, have been in conflict over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh for more than three decades and Iran has to be careful not to appear as taking sides in the conflict. Both countries have a territorial and ethnic claim to the region.

It is not clear if the appointment is a very recent decision or had been made much earlier. Last week, Mousavi paid a two-day visit to Ardabil province which borders Azerbaijan where he met with a number of officials including the governor and Friday prayer leader.

However, some social media users have speculated that his reassignment may be due to South Korea's protests against some of Mousavi's remarks last week which Seoul characterized as "inappropriate'.

"The Foreign Ministry spokesman was sent away to nowhere," one apparently hardline Twitter user wrote and asked: "Because of Korea, America's servant? … Because of mourning for George Floyd? Or because he didn't comply with the undignified policies [of the government]? What for, really?"

Mousavi had called the U.S.-Korea relationship one of "master and servant". Seoul summoned the Iranian envoy over the remarks on Tuesday.

Iran's relations with Azerbaijan somehow improved after President Hassan Rouhani took office in 2013 and trade between the two countries increased. Iran and Azerbaijan have implemented some joint projects in recent years including automaking and railway projects but the volume of trade between them hugely dropped after resumption of U.S. sanctions in 2018. Baku has also delayed a $500 million credit line for the development of Rasht-Astara railway.