Iran FM visits Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic

January 30, 2021 - 20:35

TEHRAN – Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrived in the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan on Saturday morning in a surprise move as he was not expected to pay a visit to the autonomous region.

Zarif’s visit to Nakhchivan comes on the heels of his regional tour that included Azerbaijan, Russia, Armenia, Georgia and Turkey. During this tour, the Iranian foreign minister discussed a variety of bilateral and regional issues, especially the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis.

Upon his arrival in Nakhchivan, Zarif said he visited the autonomous region to discuss “transit possibilities” after the Nagorno-Karabakh war.

“At the end of our regional that included five countries we came to Nakhchivan to discuss transit possibilities and cooperation in the region after the Nagorno-Karabakh war. And God willing, by cooperating with the region’s countries, the Islamic Republic of Iran, as well as other countries in the region, would be able to advance transit cooperation and create enduring peace,” Zarif told reporters in Nakhchivan.

In Nakhchivan, the chief Iranian diplomat met with Vasif Talibov, chairman of the Supreme Assembly of Nakhchivan. Iranian Ambassador to Azerbaijan Seyed Abbas Mousavi attended the meeting.

The autonomous region has been in the limelight since the end of the Nagorno-Karabakh war. The Russian-brokered deal that put an end to the war stipulated that a new route connecting Armenia to the Armenian enclave in the Nagorno-Karabakh region would be established. The ceasefire also included an article stipulating that “new transport links” between Azerbaijan and the exclave of the Nakhchivan Autonomous region, a move that caused huge debates – and in some cases concerns- in the region as the war was being fought far away from Nakhchivan.

The last article of the ceasefire deal vaguely stipulates, “All economic and transport connections in the region shall be unblocked. The Republic of Armenia shall guarantee the security of transport connections between the western regions of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic in order to arrange unobstructed movement of persons, vehicles and cargo in both directions. The Border Guard Service of the Russian Federal Security Service shall be responsible for overseeing the transport connections. As agreed by the Parties, new transport links shall be built to connect the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic and the western regions of Azerbaijan.”

During his visit to Azerbaijan, Zarif pointed to the issue of corridors, according to two statements published by the foreign ministries of Iran and Azerbaijan.  

“The Iranian foreign minister finally described the establishment of calm in the region as a great opportunity for mutual cooperation in the transit industry and bringing into operation the East-West and the North-South corridors,” the Iranian statement said.

The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry confirmed that the two ministers discussed the issue of corridors while implying that the Nakhchivan-Azerbaijan corridor was also discussed.

“During the meeting, the ministers discussed the current situation in the region, the implementation of the trilateral statements of November 10, 2020 and January 11, 2021. It was noted that new opportunities for cooperation have been opened up in the region, including the prospects for the development of North-South and South-West transport and transit corridors,” Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Monday.

The last article of “the trilateral statements of November 10, 2020” deals with the issue of Azerbaijan-Nakhchivan transport links so this issue was likely a part of the Iranian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers’ discussion.

Zarif also discussed the issue of transit routes with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in Istanbul on Friday morning, according to a separate statement issued by the Iranian Foreign Ministry.

“He also discussed Iran-Turkey cooperation in the fields of transit, business, energy and mutual efforts to resolve the problems of the companies and economic players of both countries,” the statement said.

In his Saturday meeting with Talibov, Zarif expressed satisfaction over the liberation of Azerbaijani territories during the Nagorno-Karabakh war, underlining the need to promote regional cooperation, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said in a statement after the meeting.

“Explaining his regional trip and the talks, as well as the views of the officials of the mentioned countries, Dr. Zarif spoke of the public welcome for regional cooperation and underlined its importance, especially in establishing transport connections in the region and transit routes, in particular the important role of Nakhchivan in this regard,” the statement said.

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