Iran has once again called on the Azerbaijan Republic and Armenia to exercise restraint to end the worst clashes in decades between the two neighbors in the border region of Karabakh.
In a telephone conversation with his Azeri counterpart Lieutenant General Zakir Hasanov on Monday, Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan strongly recommended the two sides to settle the crisis through peaceful approaches.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran will spare no effort to help ease the crisis,” Dehqan said.
The Iranian defense minister also on Sunday held phone talks with his Azeri and Armenian counterparts and insisted on the need for the confrontation to come to an end as soon as possible.
He advised that the crisis be resolved through negotiations.
On the third day of the heaviest clashes in 20 years in the disputed border region, Azerbaijan on Monday said three of its servicemen were killed as the Armenians fired mortar shells at Azeri positions and attacked them using grenade launchers overnight.
The fighting between the two countries erupted on Friday, leaving at least 33 troops and two civilians dead.
On Sunday, Azerbaijan announced a “unilateral” ceasefire as a gesture of goodwill, warning, however, that it would strike back if its forces came under attack.
Bouts of fighting were reported soon afterwards.
The Karabakh region, which is located in the Azerbaijan Republic but is populated by Armenians, has been under the control of local ethnic Armenian militia and the Armenian troops since a three-year war, which claimed over 30,000 lives, ended between the two republics in 1994 through Russian mediation.
Last December, the Armenian Defense Ministry said the ceasefire deal reached in 1994 was no longer in place, saying the current situation amounted to “war.”
Although the two countries are divided by a buffer zone, both sides frequently accused one another of violating the ceasefire.