Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Seyyed Abbas Araqchi said Saturday that Armenia and Azerbaijan have reacted “positively” to the Islamic Republic’s initiative for a peaceful resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
“This plan was viewed positively in all countries [I traveled to],” Araqchi said after visiting Turkey on the last leg of his regional tour that also took him to Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia.
On his Twitter account, Araqchi wrote that he had a “frank and productive discussion” with his Turkish counterpart Sedat Onal in Ankara.
“Iran and Turkey are two major players with undeniable role in peace and stability of the region,” he added.
Speaking to Iran’s national TV, the senior diplomat said he had “constructive” talks during his trip that he embarked on Tuesday as the especial envoy of President Hassan Rouhani to present Tehran’s initiative to end fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh between Yerevan and Baku.
He said Iran’s plan is aimed at establishing “lasting peace” in the disputed region and is based on international law which urges the handover of occupied lands among other demands.
Araqchi said under Iran’s peace initiative borders remain intact, the occupation of the mountainous region must be ended, the rights of minorities must be respected and all foreign forces must withdraw from Nagorno-Karabakh.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked in a bitter conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh since Armenian separatists backed by Yerevan seized control of the mountainous province in a 1990s war that left 30,000 people dead.
The current clashes broke out on September 27 and fighting has persisted despite international attempts to secure a cease-fire.
The warring sides have three times agreed to cease-fires during recent talks mediated by Russia, France and the United States but the truces have all fallen apart.
More than 1,200 people from both sides have been reported dead but the death toll is believed to be substantially higher.
Pledge of assistance
On Saturday, Russia it would provide "necessary" assistance to Armenia if fighting reached Armenian territory.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan formally asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to begin "urgent" consultations on security assistance in its conflict with Azerbaijan, AFP reported.
Azerbaijani forces have recently been making gains against Armenian separatists.
Pashinyan requested assistance from Moscow after Armenia and Azerbaijan failed to agree a fresh cease-fire during talks in Geneva on Friday, and fighting continued overnight and Saturday.
The announcement raised fears of Russia and Baku's ally Turkey of getting sucked into the decades-old conflict.
Russia has a military base in Armenia's second-largest city of Gyumri and a defense treaty with Yerevan.
Russia’s defense pact with Armenia does not however, extend to Nagorno-Karabakh, and Russia said Saturday help would only be provided if the fighting reaches Armenian territory.
"Russia will render Yerevan all necessary assistance if clashes take place directly on the territory of Armenia," the Foreign Ministry said.
At the same time, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said "concrete formats" of assistance to Armenia would be discussed.
Russia also called on the warring sides to immediately cease fire and begin "substantive" talks.
Pashinyan in his letter to Putin said that hostilities were getting closer to Armenia's borders and reiterated that Turkey was backing Baku.
On Friday, mediators from France, Russia and the US said in Geneva that the warring sides had committed to "not deliberately target civilian populations or nonmilitary objects in accordance with international humanitarian law".
But the Defense Ministry of the Karabakh separatist leadership on Saturday accused Azerbaijan of violating the Geneva agreements and targeting the main city Stepanakert and the strategically important town of Shusha.
The Karabakh emergencies service said the towns of Martuni and Martakert had come under fire.
The Defense Ministry said there were "wounded among civilians" in Shusha. Baku denied targeting Stepanakert.