Iran is strongly opposed to U.S. involvement in a multi-national peacekeeping force that would presumably be deployed around Nagorno-Karabakh after the signing of an Armenian-Azerbaijani peace accord, a senior Iranian diplomat warned on Wednesday.
Such a peacekeeping operation is an important element of the current and previous peace proposals made by the U.S., Russian and French mediators spearheading international efforts to settle the Karabakh dispute.
Analysts in and outside the region have long speculated about the possible composition of foreign troops that would enforce a future peace deal. The mediators’ existing “basic principles” of a peaceful settlement apparently leave that question unanswered.
According to Iran’s ambassador to Armenia, Seyed Ali Saghaeyan, the United States is keen to have troops in Azerbaijan’s Fizuli district, which borders Iran and was mostly occupied by Karabakh Armenian forces in 1993. He claimed that that would pose a serious threat to the Islamic Republic given its extremely tense relations with Washington.
“Iran is the only country adjacent to the conflicting parties, and in terms if ensuring its own security, it will not allow the deployment of American forces,” Saghayean told a news conference.
The diplomat declined to specify whether Tehran does not want to see peacekeeping forces from other foreign powers as well. He argued that both the conflicting parties and the OSCE Minsk Group have still a long way to go to reach agreement on the matter.
Saghayean similarly indicated in February that Iran regards the make-up of the would-be peacekeeping force in the conflict zone as a matter of national security. “Iran shares a common border with Karabakh and therefore we surely have our own considerations and views about the composition of a peacekeeping force that might be deployed in the conflict zone,” he said.
The Iranian envoy also insisted on Wednesday that a renewed war in Karabakh is extremely unlikely now despite the latest upsurge in skirmishes along the Armenian-Azerbaijani Line of Contact north and east of the disputed territory. “Iran rules that out,” he said.