Iran’s Nagorno-Karabakh Envoy Takes Peace Plan To Moscow
Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Ministry for Political Affairs and Special Envoy for the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict, arrived in Moscow on Thursday [October 29] to discuss an initiative for settling the armed conflict between Iran’s two northwestern neighbors, which broke out on September 27.
“The initiative of the Islamic Republic of Iran endeavors to end the dispute between Baku and Yerevan through regional cooperation but this will be a difficult task to achieve,” Araghchi was quoted as saying by Fars News Agency upon arrival in Russia. Tehran’s initiative, Araghchi said, included “[a] ceasefire, ending attacks on civilians and the return of refugees to their homes.”
Later, he held a three-hour long meeting with Russian deputy foreign minister Andrey Rudenko, who follows the Nagorno Karabagh portfolio and presented Iran's plan. There are no details about Russia's reactions.
Araghchi highlighted Tehran’s frustration with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Minsk Group, which was established in 1992 but which has proved unable to resolve the dispute between the Republic of Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, which is part of Azerbaijan but ruled de facto by Armenians.
Araghchi charged that some countries in the Minsk Group “have no connection to this crisis” and others “are not interested in peace” in Nagorno-Karabakh. Co-chaired by France, the US and Russia, the Minsk Group includes Belarus, Germany, Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland and Turkey, as well as Armenia and Azerbaijan.
On Tuesday before leaving for Baku, the first leg of a tour that will take in Yerevan and Ankara, Araghchi stressed Iran’s respect for Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. “In several stages, this plan can lead the situation to a lasting peace and end the existing conflict and, of course, the occupation of the territories of the Republic of Azerbaijan,” he said. “The protection of minority rights and humanitarian rights [for Armenians] is another basis for Iran’s initiative.”
Iran, which has good relations with both sides, regards the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict as a significant threat. “Security is Iran’s red line and it should not be harmed during the conflict between the two northern neighbors,” Araghchi said in a visit to Iran’s northwestern borders on Tuesday before leaving for Baku.
Iran is wary of a surge of ethnic Azeri sentiments in its northwestern provinces, where most people are ethnic Azeris, and of increased Turkish influence across the region. Tehran also views with concern the presence of Sunni Islamist fighters – allegedly Al-Nusra militants dispatched from Syria by Turkey - alongside Azerbaijani forces.
On October 25, Sepah News, website of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), reported the IRGC had deployed tanks and other military equipment to the city of Jolfa and county of Khoda-Afarin in East Azerbaijan Province, close to areas of heavy clashes between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces. Iran’s regular Army ground forces have also conducted drills in the area.
The Armenia-Azerbaijan clashes are the worst between the two sides since 1992. Two rounds of truce talks have failed, and continuing heavy artillery fire have seen tens of shells land in Iranian soil. Iran’s Foreign Ministry has warned both sides that Iran would not remain indifferent to such territorial violations.