Why Erdoğan's poem angered Iran

Turkish President recital of a poem last week that infuriated Iranians dredged up an historically sensitive memory of the Persian Empire ceding land that now makes up most of Azerbaijan, Al Jazeera said on Sunday.

The poem Erdoğan read at an event with his Azeri counterpart Ilham Aliyev in the Azeri capital of Baku on Thursday lamented the separation of lands either side of the River Aras, which flows from Turkey through the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region in Azerbaijan and through Iran. 

“They separated the Aras River and filled it with rocks and rods. I will not be separated from you. They have separated us forcibly,” the poem read.

Erdogan recited the poem at an event to mark an Azeri military victory over Armenia for control of Nagorno-Karabakh. His words drew harsh criticism from Iranian officials over the weekend. The Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned the Turkish ambassador to Tehran and demanded Turkey explain Erdoğan’s remarks.

A treaty signed between Imperial Russia and the Persian Empire almost 200 years ago ceded control of vast swathes of land in the South Caucasus to Russia and set the Aras River as the boundary between the two countries, Al Jazeera said. Millions of Iran’s ethnic Azeris still feel a close kinship with their counterparts across the border in Azerbaijan, according to the news service.

The lands ceded by the Persian Empire now constitute large parts of Azerbaijan and Armenia, and even parts of Turkey.

The poem is also a symbol of the pan-Turkism doctrine that seeks the unification of all Turkic ethnic groups, including those living in Iran, Al Jazeera said.

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