Iran's stance on Syunik as part of Armenia's territorial integrity is confirmed by the Iranian IRNA news agency. According to their analysis, Azerbaijan's decision to launch an operation to recapture Nagorno-Karabakh was somewhat expected, given recent events in the region.
According to the news agency, after the 44-day war and the signing of a ceasefire agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia in Moscow in 2020, Baku, in coordination with Turkey, had sought to open the Zangezur crossing through Armenia's Syunik region to access Nakhichevan. However, due to regional tensions and Iran's firm stance against altering international borders, this plan was abandoned in favor of focusing efforts on the liberation of Karabakh.
Tensions between Armenia and Russia, as well as Armenia's joint military exercises with the United States, which displeased Russia, provided Azerbaijan with an opportunity to exert more pressure for the liberation of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Armenia's significant mistake was not only declaring dependence on Russia as a strategic mistake, but also publicly aligning itself with the West. This positioning, combined with Russian discontent and Western backing, contributed to Russia's waning interest in Armenia.
Gunther Fehlinger, the head of NATO's European Committee for Enlargement, suggested that Armenia's potential entry into the alliance reflects America and Europe's desire to isolate Russia in the Caucasus and potentially replicate a situation similar to Ukraine for Moscow, using Armenia as a lever.
Recently, during his speech at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russian President Putin seemed indifferent to the resolution of the Karabakh problem, suggesting that the Armenian leadership had effectively acknowledged Azerbaijan's sovereignty over Karabakh. Putin's statement was perceived as a green light for Azerbaijan to pursue its objectives in Karabakh.
The holding of elections in Nagorno-Karabakh was perceived as another provocative act, subsequently opening the door for the Azerbaijani initiative. It's crucial to note that Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of the Republic of Azerbaijan, making these elections widely unacceptable within the international community. Several regional powers, including Iran, Russia, Turkey, and even the European Union, expressed their opposition to these elections, and it is likely that they took place without the consent of Armenian authorities.
Evidently, the Republic of Azerbaijan decided to launch an attack on Nagorno-Karabakh independently, without consulting Turkey. Ankara had previously viewed the attempt to open a corridor through Syunik as a decisive step toward Karabakh's liberation. Encouraging Azerbaijan to capture Syunik was part of Turkey's strategy to gain access to the Caspian Sea through this route.
Another significant aspect is Azerbaijan's efforts to establish a transportation route through Iran's territory to Nakhichevan, notably by constructing a railway. It is uncertain whether Ankara fully approves of this development. Additionally, Yerevan's recent statement that its reconciliation with Turkey will not depend on negotiations with Azerbaijan underscores its intention to exploit the differences between Baku and Ankara.
Iran's stance in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has consistently revolved around preserving the territorial integrity of both Azerbaijan and Armenia, respecting international borders, and safeguarding the rights of Armenians. Based on these principles, Iran recognizes Syunik as part of Armenia's territorial integrity and Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan's territorial integrity.
At this pivotal moment, Iran has the potential to play an active and effective role, aligning with its principles, to help broker a ceasefire between neighboring countries and facilitate the peaceful return of Karabakh to Azerbaijan while ensuring the safety of the Armenian minority.