Erdogan travelled to the Iranian capital for a trilateral meeting with his Iranian and Russian counterparts on the conflict in Syria. The conflict was reportedly the main focus of his conversation with Khamenei.
Khamenei, who has the final say on key state policies, also brought up the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict at the meeting. According to Iranian news agencies, he “expressed his satisfaction with Nagorno-Karabakh’s return to Azerbaijan” as a result of the 2020 Armenian-Azerbaijani war.
He also said: “If there is an effort to block the border between Iran and Armenia, the Islamic Republic will oppose it because this border has been a communication route for thousands of years.”
The Russian-brokered ceasefire that stopped the war in Nagorno-Karabakh commits Armenia to opening rail and road links between Azerbaijan and its Nakhichevan exclave. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has claimed that it calls for an exterritorial land corridor that would pass through Syunik, the sole Armenian province bordering Iran.
Turkish leaders and Erdogan in particular regularly echo Aliyev’s demands for the “Zangezur corridor.”
Armenia has rejected the demands, saying that Azerbaijani citizens and cargo cannot be exempt from Armenian border controls.
Tehran has effectively sided with Yerevan on the issue, repeatedly voicing support for Armenian sovereignty over transit roads passing through Armenia. Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, reaffirmed this stance during a July 7 visit to the Armenian capital.
Last October, an influential Iranian cleric accused Aliyev of trying to “cut Iran’s access to Armenia.”
While in Tehran, Erdogan also held separate talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The latter mentioned “the settlement of the Karabakh problem” in his opening remarks at the talks.
Russia deployed soldiers and border guards to Syunik during and after the 2020 war to help the Armenian military defend the province against possible Azerbaijani attacks.
Visiting Yerevan last month, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov insisted that Armenia will control the planned road and railway that will connect Nakhichevan to the rest of Azerbaijan. Lavrov said the Armenian side will only simplify border crossing procedures.