Iran voices concern over Armenia-Azerbaijan border clashes

July 30, 2021 - 19:0

TEHRAN – For the second time in a week, Iran expressed concern over continued border clashes between Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan, which claimed lives on both sides and aroused concerns in neighboring countries in the South Caucasus region. 

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh expressed concern over the continuation of border clashes between the border guards of Azerbaijan and Armenia.

In a statement on Thursday, Khatibzadeh expressed regret over the deaths and injuries of the two countries' nationals, and called on both parties to show self-restraint.

Armenia’s Defense Ministry said Wednesday that three of its troops were killed and two more were wounded in clashes with Azerbaijani forces on the border between the two ex-Soviet nations, which have been locked in a decades-long tug-of-war over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, AP reported. 

Azerbaijan announced that two of its troops were wounded on Wednesday. 

The two South Caucasus nations once again blamed each other for the latest flare-up which came on the heels of another clash last week. Azerbaijan said Armenian forces opened fire at its positions on the Kalbajar section of the border. The Armenian military said its personnel was attacked by the Azerbaijani forces.

Azerbaijan said Armenian forces opened fire at its positions on the Kalbajar section of the border. The Armenian military said its personnel was attacked by the Azerbaijani forces.

Armenian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that “the Azerbaijani side has been deliberately initiating escalation,” and the Foreign Ministry in Azerbaijan said in turn that “the responsibility for aggravating the situation by committing another provocation on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border lies entirely with the military-political leadership of Armenia.”

In the wake of the clashes on Wednesday, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry urged Armenia “to stop military provocations and start negotiations on the delimitation of the two states' borders.”

Armenia’s Foreign Ministry vowed to “use all its military-political tools in accordance with international law” in response “to the use of force by Azerbaijan against the territorial integrity of Armenia.”

Khatibzadeh underlined the necessity of the peaceful settlement of border disputes between Baku and Yerevan. 

He stressed that the two countries must overcome the tensions and clashes, and respect the internationally recognized borders.

The spokesman further emphasized the necessity of establishing sustainable peace in the South Caucasus region as soon as possible, and expressed Tehran's preparedness to provide any kind of assistance for the establishment of sustainable peace in the region.

On July 27, a few days before the start of border clashes, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his Azeri counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov had a telephone conversation.

During the phone call, the two sides conferred on the latest developments in bilateral relations and regional issues.

Earlier on July 27, Khatibzadeh expressed regret over the casualties resulting from sporadic border clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenia, urging the two neighbors to exercise restraint. 

In reaction to the continuation of sporadic border clashes between border guards of the Republic of Azerbaijan and Armenia, Khatibzadeh expressed sorrow over casualties on both sides, and called on the two countries to exercise restraint, according to a statement by the Iranian Foreign Ministry. 

In his statement, Khatibzadeh also highlighted the need for a peaceful settlement of border disputes between the two sides.

The spokesman urged Baku and Yerevan to leave behind tensions and conflicts, and underscored the necessity of establishing lasting peace in the south Caucasus region as soon as possible.

He said Iran stands ready to offer any kind of help to both sides to achieve lasting peace.

On July 23, news media outlets reported the outbreak of clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the Kalbjar region. One Azerbaijani soldier was reported killed and three Armenian soldiers were wounded in the clashes.

The Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense said the situation on the Kalbajar section of the Armenian-Azerbaijani state border is stable, according to the Trend news agency. The Defense Ministry accused Armenia of firing at the positions of the Azerbaijani armed forces on the section of the Armenian-Azerbaijani state border in Kalbajar district on July 23, as a result of which an Azerbaijani serviceman was killed.

“The Armenian side’s regular recent provocations, the attempts to aggravate the situation in the region by shelling the Azerbaijani positions are unacceptable and Armenia is responsible for the development of such a situation,” the ministry said, according to a Trend report. “Azerbaijan reserves the right to take all necessary measures to protect its territorial integrity within the international borders, as well as to ensure peace and security in the region.”

On the other side, Armenia accused Azerbaijan of flying a drone into the Armenian airspace. The Armenian Defense Ministry told Armenpress that on July 23, at around 23:00, the air defense units of the Armenian armed forces took actions to prevent the attempt by an Azerbaijani UAV to enter into Armenia’s airspace in the south-western direction of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. Armenpress also reported that the Azerbaijani armed forces opened fire at the Armenian positions in the Gegharkunik section of the border on July 23 at about 17:00.

“The shootings in the direction of the Armenian side took place after shootings in their own territory, which can be explained as an interpersonal incident.  This is also evidenced by the fact that the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense informs in its press release that an Azerbaijani serviceman died as a result of the shootings from the Armenian side. The Defense Ministry of Armenia stated that the Armenian side did not take any action until the moment that the Azerbaijani side started to shoot in the direction of the Armenian border guards. As a result of the intensive shooting caused by another Azerbaijani provocation, 3 Armenian servicemen received slight injuries. They have been transported to a hospital in Gegharkunik province,” Armenpress said.

Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a deadly war last year in September over the Nagorno-Karabakh region which resulted in the latter retaking large swathes of the region. After the war, which lasted for 44 days and was ended thanks to a Russian-brokered ceasefire deal, Azerbaijan and Armenia clashed from time to time in border areas but the clashes soon subsided with both sides accusing each other of firing first.
Tensions between the two countries over the region have been simmering since the end of a war in the 1990s and last year's escalation of violence was the deadliest in two decades. More than 5,000 people lost their lives and tens of thousands were displaced.

The peace deal brokered by Moscow saw Armenia forced to cede significant territory to Azerbaijan.

Both countries have repeatedly accused each other of violating the terms of the agreement since it came into force on November 10.

The recent flare-up also was put to an end by another Russian-brokered ceasefire deal. Azerbaijan's defense ministry said it has accepted a Russian proposal to enforce a ceasefire in the area, but also accused Armenia of continuing to shell Azeri positions. Armenia's defense ministry also said it had accepted the ceasefire. 

During the clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenia, Iran offered help and voiced readiness to facilitate a peaceful resolution to the long-simmering disputes between Baku and Yerevan. During the 44-day war, Iran also offered a peace initiative to end the war with senior Iran diplomats paying visits to all countries involved in the South Caucasus tensions. To this end, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araqchi undertook shuttle diplomacy and visited Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Russia. Also, Zarif spoke over the phone with his counterparts in these countries and discussed the situation in the region. Azerbaijan and Armenia both appreciated Iranian efforts. 

Iran enjoys good relations with both countries and sought to make use of these relations to bring peace to the region. Iran also expressed readiness to contribute to reconstruction projects currently underway in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

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