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Iran Warns Against ‘Regional War’ Over Karabakh


IRAN -- Iranian President Hassan Rohani chairs a cabinet meeting in the capital Tehran, September 20, 2020

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday warned that the hostilities around Nagorno-Karabakh could escalate into a “regional war” and said Iran will not tolerate the presence of foreign fighters near its northern border close to the Karabakh conflict zone.

“We must be attentive so that the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan does not become a regional war. Peace is the basis of our work and we hope to restore stability to the region in a peaceful way,” he said in televised remarks cited by news agencies.

Rouhani also said Iran will not allow “states to send terrorists to our borders under various pretexts.”

Rouhani was reported to make similar comments when he spoke with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev by phone on Tuesday. According to the Iranian Foreign Ministry, he told Aliyev that the fighting in Karabakh “must not pave the way for the influence of some terrorist groups.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif discussed the matter with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. The Russian Foreign Ministry said the two men voiced concern over the potential involvement of Syrian and Libyan fighters in the Karabakh conflict.

RUSSIA -- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) holds a joint news conference with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif following their bilateral talks in Moscow, July 21, 2020
RUSSIA -- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) holds a joint news conference with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif following their bilateral talks in Moscow, July 21, 2020

In a statement on the Karabakh war issued earlier on Tuesday, the Russian foreign intelligence chief, Sergei Naryshkin, said the region could become “a new launch pad for international terrorist organizations” from where militants could enter states including Russia.

“We are talking about hundreds and already even thousands of radicals hoping to earn money in a new Karabakh war,” warned Naryshkin.

Armenia as well as France have openly accused Turkey of recruiting Turkish-backed Syrian rebel fighters in Syria and sending them to fight in Karabakh on Azerbaijan’s side.

Both Ankara and Baku deny that.

In recent weeks Western media and Syrian opposition sources have quoted members of Islamist rebel groups in areas of northern Syria under Turkish control as saying that they are deploying to Azerbaijan in coordination with the Turkish government.

During his phone call with Aliyev, Rouhani also called for an immediate end to the hostilities.

Separately, a senior aide to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that while Tehran supports Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity it believes there can be no military solution to the Karabakh conflict.

“This war is against the interests of the people of the two countries [Armenia and Azerbaijan,] as well as the security of the region,” the Mehr news quoted the official, Ali Akbar Velayati, as saying.

“Some outsiders are also increasing tensions,” Velayati charged, pointing the finger at Turkey and Israel.

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