Nikolaos Stelgias

Nikolaos Stelgias

Iran's stance on Azeri-Turkish initiatives in the Caucasus explained

Tehran believes Azerbaijan and Turkey's maximalist aspirations over southern Armenia appear unfeasible.

Following Azerbaijan's recent triumph in Nagorno-Karabakh, Iran has expressed deep concerns about Baku and Ankara's subsequent moves in the region. In response, Iran is bolstering its ties with Armenia and signaling its commitment to maintaining the status quo in the Caucasus.

Months before the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, an Iranian think-tank closely affiliated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, released an analysis that sheds light on Tehran's perspective on regional developments. Titled "Perspective of Armenia-Azerbaijan Republic Border Talks," Jafar Khashe, head of the Caucasus Studies Foundation, highlighted the border demarcation challenges among former Soviet republics, not just Armenia and Azerbaijan.

According to local media and public sentiments, while Armenians advocate for the 1926 borders, Azerbaijan leans towards the 1974 Soviet borders. These boundaries shifted under Moscow's central governance, and both nations now interpret them differently. The think-tank underscored that the final decision rests on bilateral negotiations while also highlighting Iran's firm stance against any alterations to the borders that might affect its geopolitical interests.

Tehran closely monitors the region's water assets, notably a lake within Armenian territory but encircled by Azerbaijan. Although the border demarcation primarily concerns Armenia and Azerbaijan, Iran remains politically and legally engaged, given the potential implications on its borders and national security.

Addressing Turkey and Azerbaijan's broader ambitions, along with Israel's regional advances and the significance of Armenia's position, the analysis suggests that the proposed "Zangezur" corridor is historically and legally untenable. Contrary to some Azerbaijani claims for a reciprocal passage in return for the "Lachin" corridor granted to Armenia, the analysis emphasizes the Lachin corridor's temporary status.

Khashe further noted that Azerbaijan and Turkey's maximalist aspirations over southern Armenia appear unfeasible. Neither Iran nor nations like Russia would back such an initiative. However, Armenia might be open to transportation projects if it maintains sovereign control.

He pointed out that all three nations - Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Armenia - seek to de-escalate and normalize ties. Their success in negotiations will largely depend on their military and negotiation strengths. Armenia is also actively courting France and the European Union to be more influential.

Khashe stated that the global environment does not support Azerbaijan and Turkey's aggressive occupation of southern Armenia. Russia seeks to ensure the security of transportation lines in the region, echoing Moscow's general approach towards such conduits.

Lastly, emphasizing the significance of Iran's railway connection to Russia and Yerevan, Khashe viewed the opening of an Iranian consulate in Armenia's Syunik Province as a strategic move, highlighting that the current stakeholders support beginning negotiations to establish transportation routes, given their aligned interests.

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