In an interview with Kayhan newspaper, 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, Press TV reported on Tuesday.
“We are concerned about the fate of Azerbaijan and believe its territorial integrity must be protected,” he said
“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 Azerbaijanis, 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.”
Fierce clashes that erupted on September 27 between Armenian-backed separatists and Azerbaijani forces over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region have claimed nearly 300 lives and show no sign of letting up, with both sides vowing to continue the fight.
The territorial dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh dates back to the 1990s when the ethnic-Armenian enclave broke away from Azerbaijan, sparking a brutal conflict that has never been fully resolved.
Neither side has shown any inclination to slow the recent hostilities despite mounting civilian deaths.
“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, for fanning the flames of the war.
Velayati called on Turkey to join hands with Iran and other regional states to help liberate the occupied territories of Azerbaijan without bloodshed.
“We want neither Armenians nor Azerbaijanis 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.
Battles rage on
Battles raged between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region on Tuesday, with both sides vowing to pursue the conflict despite increasing international pressure for a cease-fire, AFP wrote.
Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu landed in Azerbaijan for talks after Russia, the United States and France on Monday called for an "unconditional" halt to the fighting.
Western powers are urging Turkey, a longstanding ally of Azerbaijan, to use its influence with Baku to restore calm after 10 straight days of clashes that have claimed more than 260 lives.
"To put these two countries on equal footing means rewarding the occupier," the Turkish foreign minister said. "The world must be on the side of those who are right, namely on the side of Azerbaijan."
Cavusoglu dismissed international calls for a cease-fire, saying: "They have been making the same call for nearly 30 years".
Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov told journalists after a meeting with Cavusoglu that there was no hope of a cease-fire until Armenian troops withdraw from Karabakh.
Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry and Karabakh's foreign ministry both said fighting was continuing on several fronts on Tuesday.
Both sides continued to claim to have inflicted heavy losses in manpower and equipment, and to accuse each of other of targeting civilian areas.
The conflict has expanded in the last few days with shelling on big cities, including the regional capital Stepanakert and Azerbaijan's second-largest city, Ganja.
Following a lull early Tuesday, there was renewed shelling in Stepanakert. Airstrike sirens rang out and the city was littered with glass and debris from previous shelling.
Armenian Health Minister Arsen Torosyan told reporters that he had seen a rocket landing very close to Stepanakert's main hospital.
Christian-majority Armenia is in a military alliance of former Soviet states led by Russia, which has a permanent base in the country.
Turkey is a loyal ally of Azerbaijan, a fellow Muslim and Turkic country, and has been accused of dispatching mercenaries from Syria and Libya to join the fighting.
Moscow and leaders in several Western capitals have condemned the deployment of foreign fighters via Turkey and instead urged Ankara to work towards a political settlement to the fighting.