Iran’s Defense Minister Hossein Dehqan has reportedly urged Azerbaijan and Armenia to prevent “foreign and irrelevant” powers from interfering in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Meeting with his Azerbaijani counterpart Zakir Hasanov in Tehran at the weekend, he also again warned against attempts to resolve the conflict by force.
“Given the current situation, we believe that the region cannot withstand another crisis and insecurity,” the Iranian Mehr news agency quoted Dehqan as saying. “Thus, we hope that the Republic of Azerbaijan and Armenia will commit themselves to achieving a peaceful solution to Karabakh conflict and will not allow its further escalation by allowing foreign and irrelevant countries to intervene.”
It was not clear to which third countries Dehqan referred. International efforts to end the Karabakh conflict have long been spearheaded by the United States, Russia and France. All three mediating powers regularly state that there can be no military solution to the dispute.
Dehqan blamed the U.S. as well as Saudi Arabia and Israel for the ongoing bloody conflicts in the Middle East. According to Iran’s Press TV, he warned that those conflicts could spread to other states in “the West Asia region” unless their leaders adopt “responsible policies vis-à-vis this instability.”
Hasanov visited Saudi Arabia less than two weeks before flying to Tehran. Azerbaijani media reports said “military-technical cooperation” was among issues on the agenda of his talks with Saudi leaders.
Azerbaijan also maintains a cordial relationship with Israel, having purchased billions of dollars worth of Israeli-made weapons in the past decade. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu paid a landmark visit to Baku last December, provoking angry reactions from Iranian officials.
Dehqan was reported to tell Hasanov that “outside elements” must not be allowed to undermine Azerbaijani-Iranian relations, including in the area of defense. According to Press TV, Hasanov responded by assuring him that Azerbaijan wants to have closer ties with “friendly and brotherly” Iran.
Pro-government politicians in Azerbaijan have dismissed Iranian criticism of Azerbaijani-Israeli dealings, pointing to Iran’s close rapport with Armenia. An Azerbaijani lawmaker complained shortly after Netanyahu’s trip that the Islamic Republic has repeatedly refused to sell long-range missiles to Azerbaijan.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani underscored his country’s ties with Armenian with his December 2016 official visit to Yerevan. Rouhani called for a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict after his talks with President Serzh Sarkisian.
“It is not acceptable to resort to force to solve regional problems,” Dehqan similarly told Armenian Defense Minister Vigen Sargsian when they met in Tehran in January.
The Iranian defense chief phoned his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts in April 2016 the day after Azerbaijan launched offensive military operations along the Karabakh “line of contact.” He urged an immediate end to hostilities there.