Azerbaijan Demands Apology From Iran Over Eurovision

Posted May 24th, 2012 at 1:00 pm (UTC-5)
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Azerbaijan has demanded a formal apology from Iran for its recent statements in connection with Baku's hosting of the Eurovision song contest.

A spokesman for Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry on Thursday called the statements “insulting” and said the government expects an apology from Tehran as soon as possible.

Azerbaijani protesters rallied outside the Iranian Embassy in Baku last week to denounce Iran's perceived anti-Azerbaijani policies and violation of the rights of the Azerbaijani people in Iran. During the rally, demonstrators displayed photos of Iran's president and the country's spiritual leader with critical comments.

The protests were held in response to ongoing demonstrations in cities across Iran against Azerbaijan's cooperation with the West and its hosting of Eurovision, Europe's biggest songfest, which protest organizers believe is against Islamic principles.

Iran on Monday recalled its envoy to Azerbaijan for consultations.

Azerbaijan has come under global scrutiny with the start of Eurovision earlier this week. Baku sees the competition as a chance to boost its image, while activist groups are seeking to use the occasion to draw attention to their campaigns.

An estimated 120 million people worldwide will watch Eurovision, which holds its final on Saturday.

Armenia has said it is boycotting the Eurovision contest.

Azerbaijan and Armenia have long engaged in a dispute about the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, a majority ethnic Armenian region deep inside Azerbaijan.

The region declared independence from Azerbaijan in 1988, triggering a six-year war that claimed 35,000 lives and left more than 1 million people homeless.

International efforts to broker a peace deal have failed, and border tensions between Armenian-backed forces and Azerbaijani troops remain high.