Zarif to visit Moscow, Baku

November 20, 2020 - 18:4

TEHRAN – Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will be visiting Moscow and Baku on Monday and Tuesday to discuss a variety of bilateral and regional issues such as the crisis in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, the foreign ministries of Iran and Russia have said.

“The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran will pay a visit to Russia and Azerbaijan on Monday and Tuesday next week, November 23-24, with the aim of holding talks with the regional parties. Nagorno-Karabakh and the latest developments in the region, as well as bilateral issues, are on the agenda,” the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said in a tweet on Thursday.

This is the first visit by Zarif to Russia and Azerbaijan since the outbreak of the war in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh in late September. The 44-day war was brought to an end on November 10 when Baku and Yerevan signed a Russian-brokered ceasefire deal that entailed the return of occupied territories to Azerbaijan and the establishment of “transport links” between the Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia as well as between the landlocked Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan and mainland Azerbaijan.

Iran has welcomed the ceasefire agreement while underlining that the current international borders in the region should not be changed.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran welcomes the agreement reached among the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Republic of Armenia and the Russian Federation, which led to a ceasefire and a cessation of hostilities, and hopes that this agreement, the principles of which were included in the initiative of the Islamic Republic of Iran, will lead to the establishment of lasting peace in the Caucasus region in such a way that includes peace and prosperity for the people in all countries of the region and removes existing concerns,” the Iranian Foreign Ministry said in a statement following the signing of the ceasefire agreement.

The statement also underlined the need to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity, and inviolability of the official international borders while calling for the liberation of occupied territories, the return of refugees, and respect for the rights of minorities, as well as the withdrawal of all Takfiri forces and foreign fighters from the region.

Iran also expressed readiness to assist in the deployment of Russian peacekeeping forces in the conflict zone.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran also declares its readiness to assist in the deployment of peacekeeping forces of the Russian Federation along the contact lines in accordance with clauses 3 and 4 of the ceasefire agreement,” the Iranian Foreign Ministry said, referring to the clauses in the peace agreement that articulate the mission of the Russian peacekeeping forces.

Clauses 3 and 4 of the peace agreement outline the places where Russian peacekeeping forces will be deployed.

The third clause stipulates that “along the contact line in Nagorno-Karabakh and along the Lachin corridor, a peacekeeping contingent of the Russian Federation shall be deployed in the amount of 1,960 military personnel with small arms, 90 armored personnel carriers, 380 units of automobile and special equipment.”

And the fourth clause further stipulates that “the peacekeeping contingent of the Russian Federation shall be deployed in parallel with the withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces. The peacekeeping contingent of the Russian Federation shall be deployed for a period of five years with automatic extension by further five-year periods if none of the Parties declares six months before the expiration of the period of its intention to terminate the application of this provision.”

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova also provided some details about Zarif’s upcoming visit to Russia, saying Zarif will discuss with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov a variety of issues including the crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, the spokeswoman said, “The sides are expected to continue the exchange of views on a range of the most relevant international issues, including the situation in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iranian nuclear program, developments in Syria, Afghanistan and the [Persian] Gulf area. Sergey Lavrov and Mohammad Javad Zarif will certainly discuss the bilateral agenda, primarily trade and economic cooperation in key joint energy and transport projects, and the possibilities for deepening cultural and humanitarian ties.”

Zakharova also praised Tehran-Moscow relations, underlining that they are expanding quickly.

“Russian-Iranian relations continue to expand quickly; this much is evidenced by the intensive and trust-based dialogue at the highest level – the presidents of Russia and Iran have spoken by telephone on at least four occasions this year,” the spokeswoman pointed out, adding that “despite the spread of the coronavirus infection, regular contacts are maintained between our countries, including between the Foreign Ministers – this will be Mohammad Javad Zarif’s fourth visit to our country this year. We also maintain an active dialogue at the level of representatives of parliaments, ministries, and other government agencies in Russia and Iran.”

SM/PA

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