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Tehran Reassures Yerevan Over Iran-Armenia Border


Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (R) and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian meet in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, September 17, 2021.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi reiterated his country’s opposition to any attempt to alter borders in the region as he held a phone call with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian reported by Yerevan on Thursday.

The reassurance comes a week after a major escalation in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone in which at least two ethnic Armenian and one Azerbaijani soldiers were killed on August 3. Both parties blamed each other for the most serious fighting since March.

Meanwhile, Azerbaijan has also accused Armenia of showing ‘unconstructive approaches’ in terms of implementing the Russia-brokered ceasefire agreement that put an end to a deadly 44-day conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh in the fall of 2020.

Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov, in particular, charged earlier this week that Armenia was dragging out the implementation of the point concerning the opening of road and railway links to connect Azerbaijan to its Nakhichevan exclave via Armenia’s southern Syunik province.

The 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 repeatedly claimed that it calls for an exterritorial land corridor that would pass through Syunik, the sole Armenian province bordering Iran.

At least one of the routes of what Baku calls the ‘Zangezur corridor’, namely the railway, should stretch along the river Arax, which marks the border between Armenia and Iran.

Armenia publicly supports the idea of unblocking regional transport links, but rejects what it calls “the corridor logic” behind such efforts. Armenia insists that it must maintain sovereignty over the transport routes in its territory.

A statement issued by Pashinian’s press office today said that during their telephone conversation the leaders of Armenia and Iran discussed “issues related to regional developments and security challenges.”

“The prime minister of Armenia presented to the president of Iran details about the recent border incidents between Armenia and Azerbaijan. In the context of establishing stability and peace in the region, Pashinian emphasized the importance of the full implementation of the trilateral agreements of November 9, 2020, January 11 and November 26, 2021,” it said.

“Referring to the recent tense incidents in the South Caucasus, the president of Iran mentioned the statement made by Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Khamenei during the recent meetings with the presidents of Russia and Turkey that Iran is sensitive about its borders in the Caucasus region and will oppose any attempt to alter them,” the statement added.

Pashinian’s press office said that the parties also “exchanged ideas on bilateral ties and emphasized the importance of bringing them closer.”

“Pashinian expressed satisfaction with the development of Armenian-Iranian relations and noted that Armenia is ready to maximally promote the transit of goods between the two countries and to develop cooperation in the field of infrastructure in terms of roads, energy and other directions.

“The president of Iran described the relations between the two countries as historical and deep and emphasized the need to raise the level of sustainable Armenian-Iranian economic cooperation,” the statement said.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned against attempts to block Armenia’s border with his country when he held separate meetings with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Tehran last month.

Under the 2020 ceasefire agreement, Russia, which protects Armenia’s borders with Iran and Turkey, is to oversee the security of the transport links between Azerbaijan and its western exclave passing through Armenian territory.

Images of Russian checkpoints set up along several roads in Syunik that appeared on the Internet earlier this week fueled speculations among Armenians about an imminent deal on the transport links. But Russia’s Federal Security Service said the stepped-up security measures were due to increased drug trafficking and other illegal cross-border activities in the area.

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