The leaders of Azerbaijan and Iran met Tuesday and stressed solidarity, saying the neighboring nations share converging views and should increase cooperation.
"Iran is interested in Azerbaijan's development, independence and security," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said after a one-on-one meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev during his first official visit to the ex-Soviet republic.
"Our relations are very deep and friendly, and we use every opportunity to further improve them, and there is a huge potential for their deepening and strengthening," Ahmadinejad said.
Aliev said he and the Iranian leader "discussed a wide range of questions and have become convinced of our solid relations. We share a common standpoint on many issues."
The warm words mask tension in Azerbaijan, which is predominantly Muslim but has a secular state, about influence from its larger southern neighbor, an Islamic republic. Azerbaijanis are also concerned about Iran's treatment of its large ethnic Azeri minority.
"Ilham Aliev and I are close friends, and we are symbols of our peoples and should make efforts to bring these two Muslim peoples closer," Ahmadinejad told a joint news conference.
In a possible reference to U.S. military action abroad, Ahmadinejad, a harsh critic of the United States, said that "problems among nations must be resolved op the basis of fairness and law, on the basis of negotiations."
"We condemn the use of violent methods on an international level," he said.
Aliev praised what he said was Ahmadinejad's support in his country's dispute with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory inside Azerbaijan that has been controlled by Armenian and ethnic Armenian forces since a shaky 1994 cease-fire.
The two presidents signed a joint statement that Aliev said would create "a big basis for further cooperation." Officials also signed documents on a border crossing, a regular bus route crossing Iranian territory to link the Azerbaijani capital Baku with the country's Nakhichevan exclave, and the planned construction of a hydroelectric power station and a road bridge spanning the border.