The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry announced the start of the exercises on Monday. It said nothing about the number of military personnel and hardware participating in them.
In a sign of the drills’ significance for Baku and Ankara, Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and top generals arrived in Azerbaijan to personally watch joint military operations simulated by the two militaries. Turkish F-16 fighter jets were reportedly involved in them.
“An enemy of one of us is an enemy of both Azerbaijan and Turkey,” Akar said on Tuesday. “Let nobody doubt that.”
In mid-October, Iran’s elite military force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), held large-scale exercises near a stretch of the Arax river separating northwestern Iran from Armenia as well as Azerbaijan’s Nakhichevan exclave and districts south of Nagorno-Karabakh recaptured by the Azerbaijani army during the 2020 war. The Iranian army afterwards held separate drills near that area.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian confirmed later in October that the drills are meant to demonstrate that Iran is serious about preserving its border and transport links with Armenia.
Azerbaijani leaders have repeatedly demanded that Yerevan open a special land corridor connecting Nakhichevan to the rest of Azerbaijan through Syunik, the sole Armenian province bordering Iran.
The Armenian government rejects these demands backed by Ankara. Tehran has likewise backed full Armenian control of all transport links passing through the strategic region.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev denounced the Iranian exercises late last month, saying that they were held in support of Armenia. He also said that tensions between Baku and Tehran have never run so high in the past.
A commentator for the official Iranian news agency IRNA hit back at Aliyev over the weekend.
“Didn't the Republic of Azerbaijan, along with Turkey and Pakistan, hold an exercise in Nakhichevan against the territorial integrity of the Republic of Armenia?” he wrote. “This exercise was before the  exercise of Conquest of Khyber held by the Iranian armed forces.”
“Iran's exercise was held to support the territorial integrity of the countries in the region, while Azerbaijan's exercise violated Armenia's territorial integrity,” he said, accusing Baku of seeking to “annex a part of Armenia.”