Iran’s Impact on Normalization of Azerbaijan-Armenia Relations

Avaz Hasanov is a representative of the International Working Group on Issues of War Prisoners, Hostages and the Missing Persons, established in Germany in 2000. The author is a political scientist, human rights activist, and also president of the International Humanitarian Studies Association.

The war between Azerbaijan and Armenia, which began on 27 September 2020, has once again increased tensions in the region of the South Caucasus. The war in the South Caucasus, an already unstable region, has forced neighbouring countries to revise their policies and hold elections in a very short time. In this process, Russia and Turkey were able to contribute to the resolution of the 30-year Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict without losing any time and make their grounds in the region depending on the result.

The Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict lasting for 30 years has gone through different stages throughout its historical process. Besides, together with various international organizations, the world’s most powerful states and leaders have played their parts in the resolution of this dispute. During the period when the tension of the dispute increased, Iran offered the parties of the conflict a mission of conciliation. The paradox, here, is that the city of Shusha was occupied by Armenians in 1992 when a meeting between the Azerbaijani leader at the time, Yagup Mammadov and the Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossian was held. In the later years, Iran began to deepen its economic relations especially with Armenia and the Armenian population of the Nagorno-Karabakh region. In contrast with this, the Azerbaijani side righteously expressed its dissatisfaction with the policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

During this process, Iran, one of the superpowers in the region, has shown not to be taken a successful and constructive stance on the normalization of Azerbaijan-Armenia relations. Russia and Turkey, once holding different positions in the South Caucasus and being Iran’s regional rivals, have also managed to strengthen their role in the security of the region. Although Iran effectively opposed the project of creating a transit corridor between Azerbaijan and Turkey after 44 days of the war, today it cannot intervene in the actualization of the project. Yet, after meeting with The Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, on 12 October 2021, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed interest in the opening of a corridor in the Meghri region of Russia and believed that the parties would solve this problem soon.

Azerbaijan’s pro-Western policies and friendly relations with Israel and Turkey concern clerics and politicians in neighbouring Iran. In addition, Iran is worried about Turkey’s relations with Georgia and Azerbaijan and its growing influence after the war. The reason of this is that Iran was accustomed to the 44-day pre-war status quo in the region. Due to the fact that the status quo at the time was undoubtedly in favour of Armenia, Iran’s political-economic partner in the region and the trade market. Far from international control for Iranian businessmen, Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh region were a good market and a good opportunity for the transit of illegal trade.

Since 1979, military cooperation between Israel and Azerbaijan, Iran’s rival, has had new consequences in the region. This cooperation has created and continues to create new obstacles for Iran.

Now the situation in the South Caucasus has changed. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s “Platform for Regional Co-operation of the Six Countries” initiative is also an opportunity to improve relations between countries in the region and ensure long-awaited peace in the South Caucasus. In fact, despite the strategic rivalry between Iran, Turkey and Russia in the Middle East, regional cooperation will also create opportunities for solving the region’s problems and expanding trade with Iran, which is subject to economic sanctions.

Iran should be more inclined to properly assess its situation and establish relations with Azerbaijan and Armenia within the framework of the declaration signed on 10 November 2020. This statement made it possible to eliminate the current tensions in the region and peace. The protection of Azerbaijan’s border with Iran by the soldiers who are the legitimate owners of the region legitimizes the possibilities of the Khudafarin dam, which Iran and Azerbaijan will jointly use on the Aras River. It is seen that Iran is struggling to adapt to the new status quo, acting on its past habits and not taking a constructive stance on the point of regional peace, as seen in the truck crisis. However, the Six Cooperation Platform fit Tehran’s interests. When you think more rationally, Iran will not look askance at that.

Armenia, one of Iran’s main neighbours, is having economic difficulty. Iran’s efforts to improve its neighbour’s economic situation could have been different. The country’s government has the opportunity to hold regular consultations with Armenia’s political leaders. In Armenia’s current situation, Iran has the best opportunity to explain to it that peace will benefit the country’s economy.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Said Hatibzade has recently clarified some issues in an interview with Russia 24 TV. Hatibzade’s statement that the development of relations with its Northern neighbours is one of the basic principles of the Iranian government, and that they will not oppose any of Azerbaijan and Armenia, which he calls “good neighbours” because of the balance they provide in foreign policy, increases confidence that some positive processes have taken place in this context.


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