Iran tries to deescalate conflict between Armenia, Azerbaijan

Iran has called for calm following the increase in tension between its northwestern neighbors Armenia and Azerbaijan.

al-monitor A man gestures boarding a bus to depart to the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region after Armenian authorities declared military mobilization following armed clashes with Azerbaijan, Yerevan, Sept. 28, 2020.  Photo by STEPAN POGHOSYAN/PHOTOLURE/AFP via Getty Images.

Sep 28, 2020

In a phone conversation with his counterparts, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tried to calm tensions on the country’s northwestern border between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

In separate phone calls with Armenia’s Foreign Minister Armen Sarkissian Zohrab Mnatsakanyan and Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov Maharram, Zarif called for calm and offered Iran’s help in deescalating tensions between the two countries. The two sides have been fighting once again in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, with each side accusing the other of reigniting tensions in the region.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh warned “the region cannot tolerate more violence.” He said Iran has called for an immediate cease-fire, and he encouraged negotiations between the two sides, adding that Iran will offer assistance in facilitating dialogue. "A military solution is not a durable solution for this decadeslong conflict,” he said.

Ghasem Rezaei, deputy commander of the Law Enforcement Force of the Islamic Republic of Iran, said Iran has been in communication with the border guards of both countries after mortar fire landed inside Iran’s borders. Rezaei said Iran has warned both sides about the escalating tensions and encouraged them to solve the crisis through dialogue.

In other news, Iran is still dealing with the coronavirus with daily deaths spiking once again. There have been 190 confirmed deaths in the country due to the coronavirus in the last 24 hours. Almost all of Iran’s provinces are under what authorities have labeled a “red zone.” Regions under this label are required to take extra measures and follow more strict health guidelines.

Iran’s Health Minister Saeed Namaki spoke today about Iran’s encounter with the coronavirus. He said Iran first became aware of a virus in late January that they all believed would have ramifications for the world. He said they recommended Iran close its borders with China, but others laughed them off. After China, Iran was one of the early countries to be hit severely with the coronavirus due mostly to its high rate of travel and business with China.

According to Namaki, the suggestion to close their borders with China was rejected because those who opposed it said that, due to sanctions, Iran must continue trade with the few partners it has left. Unable to shut down flights from China, Namaki described Iran’s efforts under the first wave of the coronavirus as building “trenches” in order to lessen the blow.

Namaki also said that in the early days of the coronavirus, media outlets opposed to Iran’s government — meaning Persian-language outlets in Europe and North America — attacked Iran’s response to the coronavirus until their own countries were hit hard with the virus as well.

Namaki said he would no longer complain publicly about how dealing with the coronavirus was handled, but he said they would continue to do their best because the virus could impact the country more severely.

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