(Bloomberg) — Iran said it will help Azerbaijan reconstruct war-ravaged areas retaken from Armenia in last year’s conflict that ended with a Russia-brokered cease-fire.
The Islamic Republic is “the closest” and has “the highest comparative advantage in rebuilding areas for your population to come back and rehabilitate,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev in a meeting in Baku on Monday.
Zarif, who is visiting Azerbaijan as part of a diplomatic tour that includes Armenia, Russia and Turkey and is his first foreign trip since U.S. President Joe Biden took office, congratulated Aliyev on his “victory” against Armenia.
Aliyev welcomed the offer, inviting Iranian companies to join the reconstruction of seven districts surrounding the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. Azerbaijan recaptured the territory from Armenia in a 44-day war that killed more than 6,000 people on both sides.
“Only friendly countries will be our partners,” Aliyev told Zarif, according to comments broadcast on the state-run AzTV channel.
Azerbaijan Says Karabakh Conflict Over With Latest Moscow Deal
Azerbaijan plans to spend billions of dollars to rebuild infrastructure and residential areas that were largely destroyed while under Armenian control. The government allocated 2.2 billion manat ($1.3 billion) from the state budget for the projects this year.
Fighting in the disputed region, that had been held by Armenia for more than a quarter century, ended following a Nov. 9 cease-fire brokered by Russia, which has also deployed almost 2,000 troops to the area to maintain the truce.
Last October, Iran boosted security along its frontier with Azerbaijan and Armenia after several stray rockets from the fighting landed in its border towns.