Iran Warns Over Violations of Its Territory As Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict Rages
Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh on Saturday warned “all sides” involved in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict against violating Iranian territory. At least a dozen mortar shells fired by Azerbaijani and Armenian forces have hit Iranian villages since heavy military clashes broke out between Iran’s two neighbors last Sunday [September 27].
“The Islamic Republic of Iran has been monitoring the movements in border areas with great sensitivity,” Khatibzadeh told reporters. “We seriously warn all sides to take the necessary precautions...”
Iranian news agencies have reported that stray mortar shells have injured a six-year-old child in Iran. The shelling has alarmed border-area villagers and led some to flee their homes, Mehr News Agency reported on Saturday. Mehr suggested that mortar fire threatened to damage the Mil-o-Moghan Dam (also known as Aras Dam) in the Aslandouz region, Ardebil Province, a dam built by Iran and Azerbaijan and used jointly.
Iran has stressed the importance of respecting Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and while it has good relations with Armenia, Tehran has always regarded the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh - since the 199os a de facto independent entity led by ethnic Armenians - as Azerbaijani territory in line with the United Nations. Since the recent fighting erupted, Iran has called on both parties to end the clashes and resolve the conflict through negotiations.
The United States has also urged the two countries’ leaders to accept a ceasefire, while on Friday the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned “third parties” to stay out of the conflict, remarks seen by some analysts as a reference to Turkey, which openly supports Azerbaijan. On Saturday [October 3], 60 US lawmakers published a letter calling for Washington to condemn Turkey and Azerbaijan and to end security assistance to Baku.
Armenia on Friday said it was ready for ceasefire talks, but Azerbaijan has yet not accepted a ceasefire or mediation.
Iran is nervous over the conflict given its own Azeri population – at least 20% of 84 million Iranians – have cultural, linguistic and religious links with Azerbaijan, and the Iranian authorities have this week arrested some protesting in support of Azerbaijan. Russia meanwhile supports Armenia.
French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday demanded an explanation from Turkey after reports it has arranged the sending of 300 militants from the Syrian city of Aleppo to fight against Armenia. Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan is keen to link up with a fellow Turkic people, but both Azerbaijan and Turkey have denied allegations that Syria-based Sunni jihadists have joined the fight against Armenian forces.