TEHRAN – As Azerbaijan and Armenia announced the failure of the third humanitarian ceasefire, which was brokered by the United States in a bid to end violence in the war-torn region of Nagorno-Karabakh, Iran stepped up to the plate and began new efforts to help deescalate military tensions between its two warring neighbors.
To this end, Iran’s Foreign Ministry announced on Monday that Seyed Abbas Araghchi, the deputy foreign minister for political affairs, will embark on a regional tour of at least four capitals to help resolve the crisis in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
“Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Seyyed Abbas Araqchi is to set off on a regional tour, as Iran’s special envoy, to promote Tehran’s initiative to settle the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis and the clashes between the Republic of Azerbaijan and Armenia,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said in a statement on Monday afternoon.
According to the spokesman, Araghchi will first visit Iranian border regions to see first-hand the latest developments on the ground. Khatibzadeh added that Araghchi’s tour would later take him to Baku, Moscow, Yerevan, and Ankara.
On Monday Morning, Araghchi began his tour by traveling to the Iran-Azerbaijan borders. He visited Khodafarin’s borderline with the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Underlining that the security of Iran’s borders is a red line that should not be crossed, the deputy foreign minister expressed concerns over problems emanating from the Azerbaijan-Armenia war and its implications for people living in border areas.
“This issue is a matter of serious concern to us, and we are pursuing the issue politically and across borders,” said Araghchi, adding, “The security of our borders is one of our inviolable principles and we will not neglect it in any way.”
He also paid a visit to the area of Khodafarin’s dams, which was recently conquered by Azerbaijani forces. Araghchi said any change in the operation of these dams requires a new political understanding, and the Islamic Republic of Iran is ready to start the necessary talks in this regard as soon as possible.
These border dams must be jointly operated in such a way that causes no damage or threat to our border areas, he added.
Zarif outlines Iran’s initiative to permanently resolve the crisis
Araghchi also met with the local military and political officials in Tabriz to discuss the latest developments of the Azerbaijan-Armenia war. He was expected to leave Tabriz for Baku, where he will present Iran’s initiative to resolve the crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Monday that Araghchi will travel to Baku, Moscow, and Yerevan to present Iran’s initiative to “permanently resolve” the crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Speaking on the sidelines of a meeting of the Parliament’ National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, the chief Iranian diplomat said, “The Islamic Republic of Iran has devised an initiative to permanently resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The initiative will soon be presented after it was approved by the country’s high-ranking officials. We will discuss this initiative in Moscow and Yerevan.”
According to Zarif, Iran’s initiative is based on respecting the territorial integrity of the Republic of Azerbaijan and peacefully resolving differences as well as the unchangeability of international borders.
“In the active diplomacy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is based on respect for the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and the peaceful settlement of the conflict and the unchangeability of international borders, there is a concern about the presence of Takfiri terrorists in the region and possibly other terrorists. We made it clear that it is unbearable for Iran,” the foreign minister noted.
The war over the Nagorno-Karabakh region began in late September when Azerbaijani and Armenian troops exchanged fire along the borders of the volatile Nagorno-Karabakh region. Since the early days of the war, Iran called on both sides to immediately stop the violence and resolve their disputes through dialogue, expressing readiness to help facilitate such a dialogue.
“Iran is closely monitoring the alarming violence in Nagorno-Karabakh. We call for an immediate end to hostilities and urge dialogue to resolve differences. Our neighbors are our priority and we are ready to provide good offices to enable talks. Our region needs peace now,” tweeted Zarif shortly after Armenia and Azerbaijan began the war.
Nearly a week after the war began, Iran offered an initiative to put an end to the war while warning the warring neighbors against any encroachments on the Iranian soil, which came under attack over the past weeks. Many rockets and mortar shells and other projectiles landed inside Iran’s borders, causing fear of possible damage to civilians living in the border areas. Moreover, a number of combat drones crashed in Iran.
In light of these developments, Iran presented its initiative to end the deadly war and protect its borders.
“Iran has prepared a detailed plan, which will be pursued through making consultations with the two sides [of the conflict]. We hope that the two sides end the war, avoid targeting civilians, and know that Iran cannot tolerate clashes on its borders. We have carefully told our friends in both countries that they need to take the necessary care,” Khatibzadeh said at a weekly press conference in early October as the Azerbaijan-Armenia war raged on.
Khatibzadeh also said Iran was in contact with both sides and pursued an “important mission”.
The spokesman pointed out, “Iran is one of the few players that enjoys good relations with the two warring sides and other regional players. From now on, Iran will have a special position and an important mission.”
He added, “The Islamic Republic of Iran will by no means tolerate any violation against its borders and soil. To this end, Iran has prepared a plan and it hopes to move forward with it through making consultations with the two sides and with the help of other neighboring countries.”
Zarif and Khatibzaded did not give any details about the Iranian initiative but it seems that the initiative has something with securing Iranian borders and preventing any change in international borders in the region.
Over the past few days, many Iranian officials have underlined the need to preserve the territorial integrity of countries and prevent any change in international borders.
As Araghchi visited Iran’s borders with Azerbaijan on Monday, the commander of Iran’s Army warned that Iran will not tolerate any change in international borders.
“Respecting the territorial integrity of countries and preserving the official international borders are among our well-known principles and we will not tolerate any changes in these borders. We have opposed these changes and will continue to do so,” said Major General Seyed Abdolrahim Mousavi.
Brigadier General Mohammad Pakpour, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Ground Forces, also echoed the same red line while visiting Iran’s northwestern borders.
“We will not accept change in the geopolitics of borders. This issue is the red line of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Pakpour asserted.
In addition to border issues, Iran has another reason to help end the violence in Nagorno-Karabakh: the death of civilians. The war took a dangerous turn on October 17 when Ganja, the second largest city of Azerbaijan, came under a missile attack which resulted in the death of at least 12 civilians.
Iran’s embassy in Azerbaijan denounced the attack as a “war crime,” calling for an immediate end to the attacks on innocent people.
“The embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Baku roundly rejects the last midnight’s missile attack on the city of Ganja, which has left dozens of civilians dead and injured,” the Iranian embassy in Baku said in a statement, adding, “[The embassy] while expressing sympathy with the grieving families and wishing a speedy recovery for the injured, reiterates that attacking cities and innocent people goes against all legal principles and the recognized international norms and is considered a war crime that must be stopped as soon as possible.”