Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on Tuesday backed Azerbaijan’s right to liberate its occupied territories, amid a conflict with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Khamenei said the ongoing conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh threatens the security of the region, calling for efforts to resolve the dispute immediately.
“Azerbaijan has the right to liberate its occupied territories and international borders must be respected, and terrorists should not be present near (Iran’s) borders,” he said in a speech marking the birth of the Prophet Muhammad.
Khamenei’s remarks are seen as significant as Iran’s official policy on the simmering conflict between the two former Soviet republics has so far remained “neutral”.
Experts believe his stance will reassure the Azeri population in Iran that Tehran stands with Azerbaijan in its conflict with Armenia over the occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Earlier, Khamenei’s representative in Baku Ojaq Nejad Agha had strongly backed Azerbaijan in its conflict with Armenia.
“Karabakh belongs to Azerbaijan… occupiers (Armenia) are aggressors,” he said in a statement last month, maintaining that Iran “has and will stand by Azerbaijan”.
Pertinently, Iran has come up with a peace plan for the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi toured four countries – Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkey and Russia – last week to discuss the plan.
According to sources, the plan calls for an immediate ceasefire between the two sides, end to occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and respect for the sovereignty of Azerbaijan.
Relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan have been tense since 1991 when the Armenian military occupied Upper Karabakh, or Nagorno-Karabakh, an internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan, and seven adjacent regions.
Four UN Security Council resolutions and two from the UN General Assembly as well as international organizations demand the "immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of the occupying forces" from the occupied Azerbaijani territory.
About 20% of Azerbaijan's territory -- including Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent regions -- has been under illegal Armenian occupation for nearly three decades.
A cease-fire, however, was agreed to in 1994.
World powers including Russia, France and the US have called for a sustainable cease-fire. Turkey, meanwhile, has supported Baku's right to self-defense and demanded the withdrawal of Armenia's occupying forces.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.