Zarif: Tehran ready to mediate for détente between Baku, Yerevan

FNA – Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said his country is prepared to help reduce tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and urged both countries to observe self-restraint.

Zarif made the remarks in separate phone calls with his Armenian and Azeri counterparts late on Tuesday.

He expressed Tehran’s readiness for easing tensions between the two Caucasian countries, and recommended them to exercise self-restraint and start talks for peaceful settlement of disputes.

In relevant remarks on Tuesday, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Abbas Mousavi said that Iran’s stance on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has not changed, adding that the dispute should be resolved peacefully.

Three Azerbaijani soldiers were killed and four were wounded Sunday after Armenian forces attacked Azerbaijani positions along the two countries’ border using artillery force, Baku said.

In a statement, Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said the Armenian army had fired at positions held by Azerbaijan in the Northwestern Tovuz region, according to Daily Sabah.

“The attack by Armenia, with the use of artillery, against the positions of the armed forces of Azerbaijan, along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border, constitutes aggression, an act of the use of force, and another provocation,” said Hikmet Hajiyev, foreign policy chief for Azerbaijan’s presidency.

Azerbaijan’s defense ministry said Armenia’s “offensive” was met with a “counterstrike”.

Hajiyev pointed out that Armenia launched the “offensive and a provocation during the time when the international community is fighting the COVID-19”, bashing Armenia’s support of a United Nations initiative for global cease-fire amid the pandemic as “nothing but hypocrisy”.

He urged the international community to condemn Armenia’s occupation policy against Azerbaijan and its provocative actions along the border.

Yerevan, on the other hand, accused Baku of “using artillery in an attack aimed at capturing (Armenian) positions”.

“They were repulsed, suffering losses in manpower. There were no casualties among Armenian servicemen,” Armenia’s Defense Ministry Spokeswoman, Shushan Stepanyan, said in a Facebook post.

The two former Soviet republics have for decades been locked in a simmering conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, a breakaway territory that was at the heart of a bloody war in the 1990s.

Sunday’s clashes however were far from Karabakh and directly between the two Caucasus states.

Since the fragile 1994 cease-fire, peace talks between Baku and Yerevan have been mediated by the “Minsk Group” of diplomats from France, Russia and the United States.

Sunday’s clashes erupted days after Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev denounced stalled peace talks with Armenia over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.