Iran thinks its phone-call diplomacy could help ceasefire in Caucasus

Iran is concerned the conflict could harm the region.

IRANIAN PRESIDENT Hassan Rouhani (right) and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Who wanted to pay the price of moral action to truly stop Iran? (photo credit: DANISH SIDDIQUI/ REUTERS)
IRANIAN PRESIDENT Hassan Rouhani (right) and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Who wanted to pay the price of moral action to truly stop Iran?
Iranian media has revealed the extensive steps Iran has taken to try to achieve a ceasefire on its northern border where Azerbaijan and Armenian forces are currently fighting.
Iran has been concerned about the battles close to the border, and both President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif are playing a role. The phone-call diplomacy hasn’t worked so far and even Russia’s attempt to broker a ceasefire appears to have failed.
Iran is concerned that the conflict could harm the region. This is partly because Turkey has recruited extremists among Syrian refugees to fight against Armenia. Recent video shows the Syrians, many of them from the Turkmen minority and members of Turkish-backed former Free Syrian Army Units are now mercenaries for Ankara. The fighters shout extremist slogans and promise to murder “Armenian pigs.”
These are the same fighters that murdered Kurds and Libyans in the past when Turkey used them. Iran doesn’t want these extremists on its border, especially because they tend to shout anti-Shi’ite slogans and cause chaos, looting, rape and murder wherever they go. In Afrin they are known for running secret prisons and kidnapping women.
Iran thus put in motion a series of calls with the President of Azerbaijan, the Prime Minister of Armenia, as well as Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Armenia did not work as closely with Turkey, despite the fact that in the past Turkey and Iran have worked together on Syria through the Russia-backed Astana process. Turkey has been the main supporter and driver of the war against Armenia, using it to champion its armed drones and regional stance.
Iran began by getting Zarif to phone his Armenian counterpart in September. Rouhani sent the head of his office to call Azerbaijan before Rouhani intervened personally with calls to Yerevan and Baku.
Iran says it supports Azerbaijan’s claims but is against using war to get back Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia said that it was also opposed to conflict and didn’t want foreign interference, likely a reference to Turkey.
On October 6 Rouhani called Azerbaijan’s leader again to see if a ceasefire could be achieved, Fars News said. Then, the Iranian leader called Putin again on October 10, seeking to see if the ceasefire Moscow was pushing would hold. It hasn’t.
Now, Iran has sent its ambassador to Moscow a message, arguing that it wants the countries to sit down and talk. Iran knows that Turkish-backed extremists near its border will eventually start murdering civilians as they have done in Syria if they are not withdrawn. That could cause anger and controversy.
Iran also is concerned about its large minority population of Azeris and what effect the war may have on their aspirations. The regime, as usual, wants quiet on its borders so it can continue with its main aim of threatening the US in Iraq, the Gulf states and also Israel. It did not expect to have to deal with fighting in the Caucasus, a region it generally sees as positive for trade, but not of particular interest, despite the historic role the Persian empire played there.
Iran is also aware that the US is pushing new sanctions and that some would like to try to stir up dissent at home among Azeris and the regime is always concerned about any ethnic or regional protests. This is why it has worked to crack down on Kurdish dissent in recent years. Turkish media recently tried to highlight a story of two Iranian border guards killed in West Azerbaijan province in Iran by claiming the Kurdish PJAK killed them. There is no evidence that this was the case and it may be Turkey trying to distract from other involvement.