Official Tehran does not participate in the Karabakh negotiation process, however, according to a Yerevan-based analyst, Iran is seeking to strengthen its role in the process.
Vardan Voskanyan, an expert in Iranian studies, says the Islamic Republic prefers a status quo in Nagorno-Karabakh, and it is against the introduction of peacekeeping forces in the conflict zone with which it shares a common border.
Voskanyan thinks that the Iranian side is interested in maintaining the status quo in Nagorno-Karabakh, and the firmness of the Armenian positions is beneficial to Iran.
“The attitude to peacekeeping forces is unequivocally negative. Iran is one of those rare sides that back us in this matter. The Iranian border is close to the conflict zone, and peacekeepers’ entrance there is viewed as a potential risk to the security and statehood of Iran. Iran cannot recognize Nagorno-Karabakh’s independence at the official level, but will do almost everything to prevent the transfer of any district of Karabakh to Azerbaijan,” Voskanyan told ArmeniaNow.
Official Tehran has stated many times that Iran is ready to contribute to the peaceful settlement of the conflict. On April 6, shortly after tentative ceasefire was agreed in Nagorno-Karabakh following four days of deadly Armenian-Azerbaijani clashes, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif had a telephone conversation with his Armenian counterpart Edward Nalbandian, calling for the parties to adhere to a peaceful settlement of the conflict. The former said that Iran could assist in bridging differences, in case of a respective wish by the [confronting] sides.
Voskanyan said that Iranians’ motive may not have negative consequences for Armenia, if the OSCE Minsk Group format is preserved. In case of disruption, no one can guarantee that Turkey will not enter the conflict zone, which is also dangerous for Iran.
Turkey will create a ‘bridgehead’ in the north of Azerbaijan to increase the former’s influence on this country. Now, in the face of Azerbaijan, it has a ‘bridgehead’, too, but Turkey uses it indirectly, whereas at that time it will use it directly,” said Voskanyan.
Commenting on the Iranian media coverage of the four-day war in Nagorno-Karabakh, Voskanyan said that the media reflecting the views of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, covered the events on the basis of the information spread by the Armenian side and the NKR Defense Army.
“There were also Iranian mass media that spread Azerbaijani disinformation or propaganda. We should be concerned about that fact and must work towards the elimination of it. There are some pro-Azerbaijani groups in Iran, and in cases of such aggravations [of the conflict] the Azerbaijani side manages to use their potential, especially in the Atrapatakan province, which is linguistically close to Azerbaijan and is a fertile ground for Azerbaijani propaganda,” said the expert.
Voskanyan said, however, that the Azerbaijani lobby groups are active not only in Atrapatakan, but also certain persons are acting in the Iranian parliament. He said that an Iranian MP, elected from the Atrapatakan province, stated in the Iranian media that there were shillings from the Armenian side to Iran’s northern region, and therefore the ambassador of Armenia to Iran should be summoned and warned.
“The bombs had dropped on the region of Khodafarin in the Atrapatakan province, which is in the rear of our troops, so if it were from the Armenian side it would mean that our troops fired at their own rear, which is absurd. It is obvious that the adversary missed, or tried to provoke [Iran], but unfortunately those lobbyist groups have used it against us. On the first day, it was reported that Iran’s territory was shelled from the zone of conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. In the second flow of information, the deputy governor directly said that [the shells had come] from Armenia,” said Voskanyan.
The expert also referred to the issue of Israeli unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) that were used by Azerbaijan during the conflict and some of which were shot down by the Karabakh army.
“Even in this condition they are subject to a detailed technical study. Considering that the Israeli-made drones are apparently very interesting to Tehran because with the same devices at least intelligence operations can be carried out in the north of Iran from Azerbaijan’s territory, I think, in the sphere of Armenian-Iranian economic relations, another field may be added, that is, high-tech military industry,” he said.
Iran also has economic interests in Armenia, including in the energy sector. It is remarkable that this week Iranian Energy Minister Hamid Chitchian was in Yerevan where on Wednesday he attended a quadripartite meeting with energy sector chiefs of Armenia, Georgia and Russia, which resulted in a memorandum signed in the sphere of regional cooperation.