Iran said on Monday it has drawn up a plan for the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said during a weekly press conference in Tehran that the proposal is based on "respecting the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and withdrawal of military forces from the occupied cities."
"The Islamic Republic of Iran has prepared a plan that will be pursued in consultation with the Republic of Azerbaijan and Armenia, the governments of the region and its neighbors, and we hope to be able to end this war as soon as possible within the framework of this plan, which is being finalized," he said.
Khatibzadeh said Iran is closely and carefully monitoring the conflict and is in constant contact with all the concerned parties.
"From day one, Iran declared to all parties that there was no military way to resolve this decades-long conflict. While respecting the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and the withdrawal of troops from the occupied cities, we emphasize the need for an immediate cessation of hostilities to begin political and timely talks between the two sides and the Islamic Republic of Iran is ready to make every effort," he said.
Tehran, he added, would pursue its proposal in consultation with both Azerbaijan and Armenia as well as regional governments and its own neighbors.
Khatibzadeh also warned that the Islamic Republic would not tolerate the conflict on its borders and the invasion of its territory, after several rockets landed in areas populated by Iranian Azerbaijanis.
"These issues are among Iran's red lines so that Iran's borders would not even be unknowingly and unintentionally attacked."
Civilians under fire
Hundreds of people have been killed in the latest outbreak of war on September 27 over Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous enclave that is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but is populated and governed by ethnic Armenians.
Armenia and Azerbaijan accused each other on Monday of attacking civilian areas on the ninth day of fighting, the deadliest in the South Caucasus region for more than 25 years.
On Monday, Nagorno-Karabakh said Azerbaijani forces launched rocket strikes on its administrative center, Stepanakert, while Azerbaijan said Armenia fired missiles at several towns outside the breakaway region.
“The enemy is firing rockets at Stepanakert and Shushi. The Defense Army response will not be long in coming,” said Vahram Pogosyan, a spokesman for the Nagorno-Karabakh leader.
Armenian Defense Ministry spokeswoman Shushan Stepanyan said: “Tense fights are in progress.”
Azerbaijan said Armenia had been launching missile attacks against densely populated areas and civilian infrastructure in Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said its radar system recorded that launches were made from the territory of Armenia.
“It is fake and complete misinformation that Armenia opened fire on Azerbaijani strongholds,” said Armenian Defense Ministry official Artsrun Hovhannisyan
The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Sunday a surge in attacks using heavy explosive weaponry on populated areas took a deadly toll on civilians.
"The ICRC strongly condemns the reported indiscriminate shelling and other alleged unlawful attacks using explosive weaponry in cities, towns and other populated areas, in which civilians are losing their lives and suffering terrible injuries, including life-changing ones,” said Martin Schuepp, ICRC Eurasia regional director in Geneva.
“All feasible measures must be taken to protect and spare civilians and civilian infrastructures like hospitals, schools, and markets. Water supply for civilians must also be protected. These are obligations under international humanitarian law,” Schuepp continued.
The fighting intensified over the weekend, and prospects for a cease-fire appeared remote after an uncompromising speech from Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev on Sunday.
In a televised address to the nation, Aliyev said Azerbaijani forces were advancing and retaking lands that they lost to ethnic Armenians in the 1990s – though Armenia disputes these gains.
He demanded that Armenia set a timetable for withdrawing from Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding Azerbaijani territories, and said Azerbaijan would not cease military action until that happened.
“Azerbaijan has one condition, and that is the liberation of its territories,” he said. “Nagorno-Karabakh is the territory of Azerbaijan.”
Speaking immediately afterward, Hovhannisyan said: “I don’t think that there is any risk for Yerevan (the Armenian capital), but anyway we are in war.”
The clashes are the worst since the 1990s, when some 30,000 people were killed, and are spreading beyond the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.
Cease-fire calls from Russia, France, the United States and the European Union have produced no result. Aliyev said Azerbaijan must take matters into its own hands after waiting in vain for three decades for diplomatic progress.
Press TV and Reuters contributed to this story.