Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has said that all Azerbaijani territories under Armenian control must be “liberated and returned to Azerbaijan”, amid heavy clashes over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
“This war is a bitter incident and it threatens the security of the region. Of course, all Azerbaijani territories occupied by Armenia should be freed. All these lands should be given back to Azerbaijan. One of the main conditions is that these lands should be returned to Azerbaijan. The Republic of Azerbaijan is entitled to be in control of these lands, and therefore, all of them should be freed,” Khamenei said in a live TV broadcast speech on November 3, according to the official website of the supreme leader.
He also urged to respect international borders and don’t transgress against the borders of other countries, saying that “the integrity of international borders should be protected and terrorists should not be allowed to deploy their forces near the borders”.
A new round of clashes erupted between the Armenian and Azerbaijani forces on September 27 with Armenia’s troops shelling heavily the military positions and civilian settlements of Azerbaijan. The attack prompted immediate counter-attack measures by the Azerbaijani army. Military operations are being conducted in the territory of Azerbaijan, marking the fighting most intense between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces since a ceasefire that was reached in 1994.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked in a decades-old conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which is the internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan but occupied by Armenia. Following the Soviet Union’s dissolution in 1991, Armenia launched a military campaign against Azerbaijan that lasted until a ceasefire deal was reached in 1994. Armenia occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized territories including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven surrounding districts. One million ethnic Azerbaijanis were forcibly displaced from these areas.
On October 22, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev announced the liberation of dozens of villages from the Armenian occupation, including areas in Azerbaijan’s Zangilan and Jabrayil districts on the border with Iran along the Araz River, and congratulate the peoples of Azerbaijan and Iran on this occasion.
The Iranian foreign minister has recently announced details of Tehran’s initiative to help settle the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis, called on the Azerbaijani and Armenia authorities as well as Russian and Turkish sides to express their views on this plan.
“Among the key points of our country’s initiative is that it does not concern a ceasefire only; rather, the plan is aimed at settling the conflict within a framework which becomes effective when both sides undertake to remain committed to a series of principles and remain in effect as more measures are adopted, including the withdrawal of occupying forces from all occupied areas,” Iran’s Tasnim news agency cited Mohammad Javad Zarif as saying on November 1.
He also expressed his regret saying that “unfortunately, over the past thirty years, negotiations were a non-starter and tensions have always existed, tensions which led to our civilians and people on our borders to be threatened by both [warring] sides”.
Seyyed Abbas Araqchi, the Iranian president’s special envoy who recently visited Baku, Yerevan, Moscow, and Ankara to offer Iran’s initiative to help settle the crisis, said that Tehran still hopes the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis will be settled despite the fact that negotiations to resolve the conflict have broken down so far.
“This initiative is based on a regional approach and contains principles including respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty, the unchangeability of borders, the necessity of ending the occupation, the need for respecting the rights of minorities’ rights, the return of refugees and the pullout of foreign elements from the region,” he noted.