Monday, June 24, 2024

Iran denies military build-up at border with Azerbaijan

The chief of General Staff of Iran’s Armed Forces, Major General Mohammad Baqeri, has rejected media speculation that Tehran is building up troops at the country’s border with Azerbaijan amid persisting tensions in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

He made the remarks in a telephone conversation with Azerbaijan’s Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov on Wednesday. The phone call came as Armenia has warned that Azerbaijan is massing troops on the countries’ shared border and near Nagorno-Karabakh, raising fears it could launch a military operation to grab some areas there.

In recent months, Armenia and Azerbaijan have traded accusations of cross-border attacks.

General Baqeri has reiterated Iran’s policy that the Nagorno-Karabakh region belongs to Azerbaijan, and stressed the country’s readiness to help facilitate a final settlement of the long-running dispute over the region.

According to a statement by the General Staff of Iran’s Armed Forces, the two sides reaffirmed their opposition to interventions by extra-regional powers in the affairs of the Caucuses region.

Hasanov, for his part, said Azerbaijan respects other countries’ sovereignty and does not seek to encroach on its neighbors’ territories.

The Azerbaijani minister proposed holding joint drills between the two countries, and invited General Baqeri to pay a visit to Azerbaijan.

Located in the South Caucasus, the landlocked region of Nagorno-Karabakh has been at the center of a dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia for more than three decades.

Since gaining independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991, the two neighboring countries have fought two wars, in 1994 and 2020, over the mountainous territory.

Karabakh is recognized as part of Azerbaijan by the international community although it has a predominantly Armenian population that has opposed Azerbaijani governance since the separatist war in 1994.

Tensions remain high and skirmishes along the shared border are a regular occurrence despite mediation efforts by the European Union, the United States and Russia.

Russia brokered a peace deal between the two sides in November 2020, bringing an end to a 44-day war in the region. It has since deployed about 2,000 troops to the region to serve as peacekeepers.

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