Iran criticises Minsk group’s peace efforts over Nagorno-Karabakh

Iran official says international mediators have ‘no real desire to establish peace’ between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Rescuers carry an injured person to an ambulance after shelling allegedly by Armenian artillery during fighting in Ganja, Azerbaijan [Aziz Karimov/AP]

Tehran, Iran – Iran has presented its ideas on how to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, as it criticised efforts by the OSCE Minsk Group to bring peace to the South Caucasus.

Iranian deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi, concluded a regional diplomatic tour on Friday, in which he discussed Tehran’s plan to establish a sustainable truce after three previous ceasefire efforts brokered by Russia and the United States were immediately broken.

Armenia and Azerbaijan, which have been locked in military conflict for more than a month over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, accuse each other of failing to adhere to the terms of the humanitarian truces.

Araghchi this week said the Minsk Group, founded nearly 30 years ago to resolve the long-standing conflict, and co-chaired by France, Russia, and the US, has failed in its mission.

“Some of the member countries of this group are not even in the region and their inefficiency has been proven,” Araghchi told the state-run IRNA.

“The foreign players of the Minsk Group – France and the US – are far away from the region and are disconnected from it not only politically, but emotionally and ethically, while having no real desire to establish peace in Karabakh.”

Details of Tehran’s plan have not been publicised, but the Islamic republic says it wishes to stop the bloodshed, especially among civilians.

Since September 27, more than 1,000 people have died on both sides, including several civilians.

Iran, which has borders with both Armenia and Azerbaijan, has repeatedly said it supports resolving the conflict through dialogue within the framework of international laws and through respecting Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity.

According to several United Nations Security Council resolutions, the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is populated by a majority of Armenians, is officially Azerbaijani territory and under occupation.

In Moscow earlier this week, Araghchi talked to his Russian counterpart in what he called a “fruitful” meeting.

On Tuesday, the Iranian official was in Baku to meet top-level Azerbaijani officials including President Ilham Aliyev. He said the meeting with Aliyev, which lasted several hours, was “positive and constructive”.

On Thursday, Araghchi held talks with an Armenian delegation led by Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan in the last leg of his regional diplomatic tour.

He also met Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and told reporters the rights of Armenians living in contested regions must be represented for both countries to achieve lasting peace.

Armenian officials said the country will consider Iran’s initiative to end the conflict.

During the final leg of his diplomatic tour, Araghchi met Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal in Ankara.