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Iran Leader’s aide: Armenian occupation of Azerbaijan must end, but not through war

The aftermath of recent shelling during a military conflict over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh in Stepanakert October 5, 2020 (Photo by Reuters)

A top advisor to Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has called for a political settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, saying Armenia’s occupation of Azerbaijani cities should come to an end as required by international law, but not through military force.

In an interview with Kayhan newspaper published on Monday, Ali Akbar Velayati stressed that Iran respects the territorial integrity of all countries as a general principle of the UN Charter.

In line with that principle, the official added, Iran is opposed to the occupation of Azerbaijani territories by Armenia.

He said, “We are concerned about the fate of Azerbaijan and believe its territorial integrity must be protected.”

“In this case, the territory of one country is occupied by another. The areas south of the Republic of Azerbaijan — about 7 cities — are occupied by Armenia. In this regard, four resolutions have been adopted by the UN, all of which require the Armenians, who have occupied these parts of Azerbaijani soil, to pull out and return to international borders,” Velayati underlined.

“We, therefore, want Armenia to return these occupied parts to the Republic of Azerbaijan. More than one million Azeris, who have been displaced by the occupation of these areas, must return to their homeland soon. Just as we oppose the occupation of Palestine by the Zionist regime, we have the same position here.”

Since late September, heavy clashes have been underway between Azerbaijani and Armenian military forces over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. Both sides blame each other for initiating the fighting in the Caucasus Mountains.

Hundreds have been killed in the worst spate of fighting between the two former Soviet republics since the 1990s.

For years, the two neighbors have been locked in a conflict over Azerbaijan’s breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh mainly inhabited by ethnic Armenians. Though a ceasefire was agreed in 1994, Baku and Yerevan continue to accuse each other of shooting attacks around the enclave.

“The solution to the issue is by no means military; rather, it must be settled politically. Therefore, we oppose any military action by any side because the losers of this war will be the civilian population, especially since residential areas have lately been bombarded. This war is against the interests of the people of both countries and against the security of the region,” Velayati said.

He also slammed foreign parties, including Turkey and Israel, for fanning the flames of the war.

Velayati called on friends in Ankara to join hands with Iran and other regional states to help liberate the occupied territories of Azerbaijan without bloodshed.

On the case of Israel, he said “the Zionist regime is basically illegitimate and is [itself] founded on the occupation of other territories, i.e. Palestine. It has no right to comment on these matters at all. This regime does nothing but incite sedition and should not be present in the region [in the first place],” the Iranian official noted.

“We want neither Armenians nor Azeris to incur casualties. Both Muslims and Christians must live in complete security. The violated rights of the Republic of Azerbaijan and its occupied territories must be restored while the bloodshed must stop. The Islamic Republic will spare no effort to help broker peace between the two neighbors,” he added.

Additionally, Velayati lashed out at France for meddling in the regions’ affairs, saying Iran will not allow insecurity in Transcaucasia, also known as the South Caucasus.

Asked about reports of the deployment of Takfiri terrorists to Azerbaijan in the areas close to the Iranian border, he expressed hope that they would not be true.

If so, all those behind such a deployment “are responsible for allowing al-Qaeda and Daesh extremists to enter this sensitive area. Daesh and Wahhabi extremists are tools in the hands of the Americans. They must be stopped, and certainly the people of Azerbaijan and Armenia do not agree with these individuals who have a very dark record … [and] committed so many crimes in Iraq and Syria,” he said.

“Undoubtedly, the Islamic Republic of Iran will strongly defend its security and its borders. In this regard, too, we have left no room for doubt. We will never allow terrorist groups and the stooges of American and Israel to nest along our borders. They will definitely be dealt with.”

Tehran on Monday announced the general outlines of a plan drawn up to broker peace between the two neighbors based on “respecting the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and withdrawal of military forces from the occupied cities.”

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman also in a tweet on Monday invited both parties to the conflict to respect the law of war.

“The warring parties should respect the law of war and avoid targeting civilians,” Saeed Khatibzadeh said.

He also highlighted Iran's demand for "immediate ceasefire, respect for Azerbaijan's territorial integrity and time-bound political talks."

Armenia, Azerbaijan warned against shelling Iran borders by mistake

Speaking on Tuesday, Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami said some shells have been fired by mistake at Iran’s northwestern border areas amid the Karabakh-Nagorno flare-up.

“It is by no means acceptable that a shell hits the borders of the Islamic Republic due to an error and negligence, and in this regard, necessary warnings have been issued to the warring sides in the Caucasus region,” he said.

“We hope that these warnings will be taken into consideration by the neighbors who are in engaged in the conflict, because the security of citizens and border residents of the Islamic Republic’s territory is an important issue.”

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