MOSCOW — Iran strongly opposes any redrawing of borders in the South Caucasus, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said after meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Wednesday.
Amir-Abdollahian visited Russia amid Iran’s mounting tensions with Azerbaijan that followed Baku’s decision last month to levy hefty fees from Iranian trucks transporting goods to and from Armenia.
He said on his arrival in the Russian capital late on Tuesday that Tehran expects Moscow to “react to possible changes in regional countries’ borders.” He also echoed Iranian accusations that Baku is harboring Middle Eastern terrorists as well as Israeli security personnel near Iran’s borders.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev angrily denied the accusations on Monday. He earlier criticized large-scale Iranian military exercises that began along the Azerbaijani border last week.
Earlier on Monday, a senior Iranian parliamentarian reportedly accused Aliyev of trying to “cut Iran’s access to Armenia” with the help of Turkey and Israel.
The Azerbaijani leader has repeatedly threatened in recent months to forcibly open a land “corridor” that would connect Azerbaijan to its Nakhichevan exclave via Armenia’s Syunik province bordering Iran. All Armenian roads leading to Iran also pass through Syunik.
Speaking at a joint news conference with Lavrov held after their talks, Amir-Abdollahian reiterated that any “changes in the region’s map” are unacceptable to Iran. He indicated that the issue was on the meeting’s agenda.
The Russian foreign minister said they discussed “the situation in the South Caucasus” but did not comment on the unprecedented Azerbaijani-Iranian row. He said only that Moscow, which has deployed Russian troops in Syunik over the past year, is against any “provocative” war games in the region.
“Azerbaijan is expressing concern over recent military exercises held by our Iranian friends near its borders,” Lavrov told journalists.
Amir-Abdollahian countered that Azerbaijani and Turkish troops have held six joint drills in Azerbaijan so far this year.
Lavrov also stressed the importance of “unblocking all transport and economic links in that region” after last year’s Armenian-Azerbaijani war.
“That will benefit not only Armenia and Azerbaijan but also Georgia … as well as Iran, Russia and Turkey, the nearest neighbors of the three South Caucasus republics,” he said. “In this context, we discussed today the [Turkish] initiative to create a ‘three plus three’ format: the three South Caucasus countries and their three big neighbors: Russia, Iran and Turkey. Our Iranian friends have a positive attitude to this initiative.”
Amir-Abdollahian flew to Moscow on Tuesday one day after meeting with Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan in Tehran. The latter accused Baku of misrepresenting Russian-brokered agreements that call for the opening of transport links between Armenia and Azerbaijan.