Flag of Azerbaijan
Flag of AzerbaijaniStock

Azerbaijan on Monday denied Iranian allegations of Israeli military presence in the country, after Tehran's army launched drills at the countries' border, AFP reports.

Iran made the claims about Israel on Thursday and a day later, state television showed tanks, howitzers and helicopters firing at targets in the north west of the country near the border.

Azerbaijan's foreign ministry spokeswoman Leyla Abdullayeva said Monday that Iran's claims were groundless.

"We reject the allegations of any third party's presence near the Azerbaijani-Iranian border, such allegations are totally baseless," she said, according to AFP.

Iran's Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, last week had told Azerbaijan's ambassador that his country would not tolerate Israel's presence or activity "next to our borders" and vowed to take any necessary action.

Azerbaijan's President, Ilham Aliyev, later criticized the Iranian war games in an interview with Turkish news agency Anadolu, asking "why now, and why on our border?"

Azerbaijan and Iran have long been at loggerheads over Tehran's backing of Armenia in the decades-long Karabakh conflict.

Azerbaijan, which has bilateral ties with Israel, opened a trade representation office in Israel earlier this year.

Azeri Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov recently praised the ties between his country and Israel.

"Azerbaijan and Israel enjoy strong bilateral relations and good friendship. Israel was one of the first countries that recognized the independence of Azerbaijan, and we highly appreciate it. Our cooperation is close and mutually beneficial, and it covers political, economic, military, and other fields," Bayramov said.

Israel and Azerbaijan recently celebrated 29 years to the establishment of bilateral ties. At the time, an Azeri official told the Israel Hayom newspaper, "The time has come to open an Azerbaijan Embassy in Israel."

"The Azeri people and the Jewish people have a long history together," Farid Shafiyev, the chairman of Azerbaijan's Center of Analysis of International Relations, told the newspaper.

"Jews have lived in Azerbaijan for 2,500 years. The historic ties between the peoples are deep," he added, noting this shared history was the basis for bilateral ties.