Hossein Shariatmadari, Editor-in-Chief of KayhanHossein Shariatmadari, Editor-in-Chief of Kayhan, a newspaper that reflects Khamenei’s views, maintains in an editorial titled, “Baku’s Turn” that Iran should intervene to “save” the Azeris by proposing to Azerbaijani officials that a referendum be held on the question of unification with Iran.
He described his proposal as “the most basic step toward democracy,” adding that Azerbaijan’s citizens are eager to join Iran. He said the conference (organized in Baku by groups seeking independence for Iran’s sizable Azeri minority) was one of “hundreds of joint measures by some Azerbaijani officials to counter the sense of solidarity the people of Azerbaijan feel with Islamic Iran and to prevent the outburst of these religious and cultural feelings.”
Earlier this week, Iran’s Foreign Ministry’s response to the conference was swift. It summoned the Azerbaijani Ambassadorto Tehran and warned him that such provocations could “seriously” harm relations between the two countries. Acting Chairman of the Majlis National Security Council, Mansour Haqiqatpour, announced that residents in seventeen Caucasian towns including Baku, which broke away from Iran during the Qajar Dynasty, have expressed a desire to again become part of Iran.
The Azeri minority in Iran includes senior political figures such as the Supreme Leader, Khamenei, and leading opposition leader Mir Hussein Mousavi.