05/27/2021, 10.21
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Tehran intervenes in Armenia and Azerbaijan conflict

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Failure to define the borders between the two Caucasian countries risks separating Armenia from Iran. Tensions mount between Yerevan and Baku, between Tehran and the Russian and Turkish "peacekeepers". Zarif makes desperate bid to save Rouhani.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The border crisis between Armenia and Azerbaijan worries Tehran. Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javar Zarif, visited Baku on 25 May and went to Yerevan the following day to discuss the lack of agreement on the demarcation of borders in the vicinity of Iran. The fact could be a continuous source of problems, forcing the border lines of the Islamic Republic to be redrawn.

Zarif had already visited the two countries in January 2021, when he also went to the capitals of the other two major countries concerned, Moscow and Ankara, as well as the Georgian capital of Tbilisi.

At the time he had asked all parties to revise the November 2020 peace agreement that ended clashes in Nagorno Karabakh, also considering the interests of Iran. The minister had defined the Azerbaijani victory as "the beginning of peaceful and normal relations between all the countries of the region".

But border issues are disproving these optimistic predictions. On the Armenian side, continuous intrusions by the Azerbaijani armed forces on their territory are complained, in order to correct the borders of the Syunik region near the Black Sea. The acting premier in Yerevan, Nikol Pašinyan, defined the actions of Baku "an attack on the territory of Armenia”, asking for military help from Russia, as reported yesterday by Nezavisimaja Gazeta.

These incidents remain concerned in Tehran. The chairman of the Parliamentary Commission for Foreign Policy, Mojtaba Zannour, said that Iran will not accept any changes to its borders in the region concerned, let alone admit the presence of military forces even if they are passed off as "peace contingents".

There has been telephone contact on the issue between the foreign ministers of Iran and Turkey, and the issue will be discussed in an upcoming meeting between Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev and Turkish President Erdogan.

Interviewed by Nezavisimaja Gazeta, a Russian expert from the Middle East, Aleksandr Knjazev, recalled that "presidential elections will be held in Iran on June 18, and the current president Hassan Rouhani is likely to hand over power to his opponents, together with his entire team, including Zarif. A much more conservative group of leaders will probably be chosen in their place”.

Experts like Knjazev, Zarif is desperately trying to regain consensus, since foreign policy is one of the most critical points of Rouhani's double mandate, who failed to get Western sanctions lifted, despite the nuclear agreements.

Zarif’s visit is unlikely to allow Iran to establish itself as the "third guardian" of the Caucasus, in addition to Russia and Turkey, as the conservatives claim. According to Knjazev, “Iranians today regard Azerbaijan’s Islamic brothers with a certain mistrust, since they are too tied to Turkey, with the risk of favouring a Turkish military presence in the Caspian Sea region, which Tehran would not really like. Furthermore, the Azeris collaborate with too much concern with the Israelis”.

On the contrary, Iran has fewer problems with the Armenians, and they want to keep the current border with them, instead of lengthening the Azerbaijani part in what is called the "Zangezur corridor", which would practically separate Iran from the 'Armenia. The parties continue to make very contradictory statements on the matter. It will be the subject of disputes for some time yet.

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